December 1, 2023
Anew policy has been implemented to prevent similar incidents in the future, the sheriff's office said.

SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office on Monday announced a $90,000 settlement with a Muslim woman who was denied the right to wear her hijab during a jail stay last fall, as well as a new policy to prevent similar incidents in the future.

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Asia Aden was booked into a county jail facility in October 2022, the sheriff’s office said in a news release. During the booking process, deputies asked Aden to remove her head covering to conduct a pat search for safety purposes. Aden’s hijab was taken off and returned when she was released from custody a few days later.

“We welcome the settlement as a step towards justice for Ms. Aden,” said Jeffrey Wang, a senior civil rights attorney for the San Francisco Bay Area Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which represented Aden. “We urge more municipalities to follow Santa Clara County’s example by reviewing and implementing policies to ensure everyone’s constitutional rights are protected, regardless of faith.”

In the news release, the sheriff’s office said it was “grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with CAIR-SFBA” on a new religious services policy that provides clear guidance to deputies “who are presented with the challenging task of harmonizing important safety objectives, like the need to conduct a pat search or resolve potential mental health concerns, with an individual’s right to religious expression.”

The policy has already been implemented and deputies have received training, the sheriff’s office said.

Under the policy, Aden would have been offered a pat search in private or outside the presence of men, as well as the opportunity to take a booking photograph wearing her hijab. And barring any safety or security concerns, Aden would have been allowed to keep her hijab or use a jail-issued religious head covering while in custody.

“The sheriff’s office respects all religious faiths, and the office is committed to ensuring safety and security within the jail facilities in a manner that is consistent with protecting the rights and religious expression of those in its custody,” said Sheriff Robert Jonsen.

A similar incident happened in February 2021, when a Muslim woman’s hijab was forcibly removed during the booking process, according to CAIR-SFBA. Two months later, the Muslim-rights group publicly demanded policy and training changes.

The sheriff’s office, at the time, said it would work “to ensure that our booking procedures provide appropriate safety procedures while balancing one’s religious practice expectations.”