Federal appeals panel to prison: Use inmate’s legal name on I.D. card

Wednesday, August 9, 2000

The Florida Department of Corrections violated the free-exercise
rights of a Muslim death-row inmate when it refused to use his Islamic name on
his prisoner identification card, a federal appeals court panel has ruled.

Rasikh Abdul Hakim, imprisoned for a 1979 murder, changed his name in
prison from the name under which he was committed — Kenneth D. Quince.

In 1993, his name was legally changed by the state of Florida.
However, prison officials refused to recognize his new name.

In November 1995, Hakim sued in federal court, contending that prison
officials were violating his First Amendment free exercise of religion rights
by refusing to recognize his religious name.

In his lawsuit, Hakim sought to compel the prison to follow a
dual-name policy for incoming and outgoing mail, in its master database of
prisoner information and on his prisoner identification card. The I.D. card
enables prisoners to obtain canteen, notary and banking services in the prison.

In September 1997, a federal district court rejected Hakim’s claim
with respect to the mail and database systems, saying the prison had already
adopted a dual-name policy for the mail and had added a way to search for
aliases in its database.

However, in July 1998, the federal district court ruled in favor of
Hakim with respect to the prisoner I.D. card.

The prison officials argued that requiring them to place prisoners’
religious names on I.D. cards would compromise the prison’s interest in
security. They contended that the addition of other names to the cards would
create confusion and delay in identifying prisoners.

The lower court said that it was “not convinced that the addition of a
legal religious name as an alias would result in mass confusion or disruption
of the inmate identification system.”

On appeal, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals unanimously agreed in Hakim v.
, finding that the prison’s policy with respect to I.D.
cards “was an exaggerated response to prison concerns.”

In its Aug. 4 decision, the panel analyzed the regulation under the
U.S. Supreme Court’s standard for reviewing prison regulations articulated in
the 1987 decision Turner v. Safley.
In the Turner decision, the high
court determined that a prison regulation that infringes on a prisoner’s
constitutional rights is permissible if the regulation is reasonably related to
a legitimate penological interest.

In Hakim’s case, the panel determined that prison officials could not
show a reasonable interest in prohibiting the use of religious names on
prisoner I.D. cards.

“After our review of the record, we conclude the district court did
not err in determining the DOC’s policy was unreasonable under the Turner
standard,” the panel concluded.

Hakim’s attorney could not be reached for comment. Calls to the
Florida Department of Corrections were not returned.

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