Friday, March 14, 2008

Oh, for crying out loud! Apologizing over a ham sandwich

I am printing this in it's absurd entirety so you can read the whole crazy thing. You have to understand that they (you know who 'they' are) didn't even get the ham sandwiches - what they got was a printed menu card with the word ham on it.

First of all, printed menu cards in prison? And a diversity manager sitting down with the 200 moslems in the prison to break their fast during Ramadan? Read on, my puzzled possums to see the steps taken to ensure that this horrific, heinous incident never happens again...

All I can say is: "What is wrong with these people?"

The Government has apologised to 200 Muslim inmates at Armley Jail who were offered ham sandwiches during a holy festival.

Jack Straw, the Minister for Justice, who is in charge of the nation's prisons, has admitted in a letter seen by the YEP that a "regrettable administrative error" led to the blunder and has ordered bosses at HMP Armley to be more diligent.

On a supposedly 'halal' (allowed) Ramadan menu, prisoners were offered ham sandwiches as part of three options. Ham, pork and all pig derivatives are strictly forbidden for Muslims, as well as for Jews.

In a personally signed letter to Leeds MP Hilary Benn on behalf of the prison Governor, Mr Straw said: "A regrettable administrative error occurred at Leeds prison in the printing and distribution of special Ramadan pre-select menu cards, meaning that inappropriate menus were handed out to some prisoners.

"The Governor accepts responsibility for this error and apologies for any offence caused to the Muslim community. He has advised staff to be more diligent and to take more care to ensure errors are not repeated.

Additional local management checks and staff training will be introduced to the prison before Ramadan 2008.

Mr Straw's intervention was instigated by Leeds councillor Kabeer Hussain (Independent/Hyde Park & Woodhouse) when he wrote to the city's MPs to request an explanation from the top.

Coun Hussain said the apology was a "step in the he right direction" adding: "I hope these unfortunate errors can be avoided in the future".Kate Maynard, a lawyer representing 16 Muslim inmates from Armley Jail who are suing in a separate case of alleged racial harassment and mistreatment, said the latest incident was clear evidence of the "underlying insensitivity" of the Prison Service towards inmates' cultural needs.

Mr Straw stressed in his letter that the Prison Service offers 11 different religious and cultural diets to prisoners from ethnic and faith backgrounds. It consults national faith leaders and organisations when putting together menus and in the case of Muslim convicts, the Halal Food Authority is a regular adviser. Imams (priests) are also invited to inspect food preparation and storage facilities to ensure they comply with the religious code. Angie Pettit, deputy governor and spokeswoman for Armley Jail, said it now employed a diversity manager to monitor prisoners' cultural and food needs and the organisation had come on "in leaps and bounds" since 2004/05. The diversity manager also sits down with Muslim inmates during Ramadan to break fast in the evening, she said.

Tip of the ham hock to The Religion of Peace.