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Somali inmate raises concerns about meal options, other considerations at Rice County Jail
Fairbault Daily News
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
By REBECCA RODENBORG
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A Somali man in jail on charges of terroristic threats and property damage claims that he has been forced to eat pork and that the jail administrator has refused to work with him on the issue.
But Rice County Jail Administrator Jodi Bushey says jail staff do everything they can to meet the dietary needs of every inmate, whether it be related to religion, medical needs, food allergies or a vegetarian diet.
Mahmood Abdulle Ahmed made the allegations during a scheduled omnibus hearing in Rice County District Court Tuesday afternoon. His public defender, Alex De Marco, entered a not guilty plea to charges of terroristic threats and property damage.
De Marco told Judge John Cajacob that while there are issues in the case they are better left addressed in a jury trial.
Ahmed, 30, is charged with three separate counts of felony terroristic threats and one felony count of first-degree property damage. Ahmed allegedly used a baseball bat to break the windows out of three businesses in downtown Faribault during the early hours of April 26.
Faribault Police arrested Ahmed at about 2:30 a.m. April 28. Later that same morning Ahmed allegedly threatened to blow up the Faribault Police Department if he was charged with a felony in court, according to one criminal complaint.
Ahmed has denied the allegations in open court, saying that he's been a "good citizen" while living in Faribault and that he wasn't in town when the property damage occurred.
Ahmed remains in the Rice County Jail on $20,000 conditional bail.
With De Marco at his side, Ahmed told Judge Cajacob on Tuesday about his fight for a pork alternative as well as concerns about access to a Quran and medication. He said he was diagnosed with schizophrenia years ago and has struggled with lucid dreams while in the jail.
Ahmed specifically mentioned bologna-type sandwiches and noted that one time he was served an egg salad sandwich instead. A jail staffer reportedly told him the bologna didn't contain pork, but Ahmed told Judge Cajacob that he's still waiting to see an ingredient list.
Ahmed told Judge Cajacob that he eats what is served because he "won't be starving."
Bushey told the Daily News on Wednesday that meals within the jail vary, but that only one meal -- a ham sandwich -- contains pork. The sandwich is served once a week, Bushey said, and a turkey sandwich is substituted for those on special diets.
"(S)taff ensures that any inmate requiring a special meal is provided the appropriate meal through consultation with the kitchen and proper distribution," Bushey said. Citing state law, Bushey refused to comment on specific dietary needs or medical conditions related to Ahmed.
Ahmed also told Judge Cajacob that the jail library did not have any copies of the Quran. He was allowed to request a copy, he said, but then was charged $10. Bushey explained on Wednesday the $10 fee was a damage deposit that is refunded when a book is returned in good condition.
"Despite the best efforts of the staff, inmates may complain about various issues within the jail based upon their perception," Bushey said.
Bushey said complaints are reviewed and, if necessary, addressed.
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