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State Bans Female Correctional Officer From Wearing Hijab

Photo Credit: Fox 5 Atlanta

Photo Credit: Fox 5 Atlanta

Jalanda Calhoun, a Georgia correctional worker at Rogers State Prison, is asking Governor Kemp to mandate state agencies to allow their employees to wear religious clothing.

Calhoun converted to Islam in January, and since then, has opted to wear a hijab.

She gave Fox 5 News a copy of the letter she received from the warden in February informing her that she could not wear a hijab.

She said, "When I first had to remove my hijab, my sisters and brothers just thought it was the craziest thing they ever heard. They just wanted me to push the issue, fight the issue because they knew I was right for what I was doing, and they knew the prison was wrong."

Photo Credit: Fox 5 Atlanta

Photo Credit: Fox 5 Atlanta

The letter states that the headscarf would prevent her from being identified as an employee, allow for the concealment of contraband, and could easily be used by an inmate to conceal his identity during an escape attempt.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, attorney and Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Georgia, said: "Usually when we see cases like this it's related to private employers, business, not the government. You expect the government to understand the law better than anyone else."

CAIR Georgia maintains that Calhoun's constitutional rights have been violated, and has filed a complaint with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity. The complaint asks that Calhoun be allowed to wear a hijab and have a 10-minute prayer break. The organization states that Muslims are required to pray five times a day.

Calhoun is still working, and has been covering her neck and wearing a ball cap.

Photo Credit: Fox 5 Atlanta

Photo Credit: Fox 5 Atlanta

Governor Kemp's office, responding to questions about Calhoun’s issue, directed FOX 5 to the Department of Corrections, releasing the following statement:

"The GDC was contacted by the CAIR regarding Officer Calhoun's concerns, and we attempted to accommodate her to the extent possible given the high-security environment in which she works. We regret that she has found those efforts unacceptable and is pursuing a legal remedy. As of this date, we have not received a copy of Officer Calhoun's complaint, and therefore cannot speak to its contents."

Mitchell expects a response to the complaint within six months and has maintained that he will file a federal appeal and lawsuit if it becomes necessary.

Sources: Fox 5 Atlanta

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