Sheriff's Office Serving Needs Of Muslim Inmates

Posted at 6:02 PM, Jul 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-20 19:46:27-04

The Davidson County Sheriff's Office has been focusing on diversity, but with 10 percent of their 1,800 inmates, identifying as Muslim, officials said more can be done. 

Five times a day, every day, people who follow Islam turn toward Mecca and pray. It's something unique to their religion, and something local Muslims hope more people will understand, and accept, especially when it comes to Islam and law enforcement.

"If someone's knowledgeable about both sides, they can prevent problems from happening and prevent abuses from happening," said Paul Galloway, executive director for the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC).

Representatives from AMAC sat down with members from the Davidson County Sheriff's Office to discuss ways to better educate deputies and the community when it comes to Islam, and law enforcement. 

"When law enforcement and the community work together and respect each other, the only thing that can come out of that is that the whole community's safer," Galloway said. 

"I think there's a little bit of fear of the unknown," said Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, referring to the lack of knowledge of certain religions and cultures. 

Hall said he prides the Sheriff's Office on acceptance, being one of the most diverse law enforcement entities in Middle Tennessee, with Nashville being 56% white and 44% non-white, and the Sheriff's Office matching those statistics. 

"We don't map it that way, we just want to be diverse and represent this community," Hall explained. 

The diversity in the Sheriff's Office was a big reason why Sheriff Hall has instituted new Islam training for employees and planned to hire a new part-time Muslim advocacy position.

Nashville has the largest Kurdish population in the country, and if they end up in the prison system, the sheriff said he wants to make sure they're understood by deputies, and that requirements like special diets are met. 

"We want to be able to communicate directly to a population with a sensitivity to their needs, but also, the population communicating back to us," Hall said. 

As it stands now, about 10 percent of inmates in Davidson County are Muslim, and with more education, Sheriff Hall hopes that the relationship and understanding between those inmates and deputies can become better than ever.