Islamic advocacy group alleges hate incident at Cheshire prison

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong

Associated Press

CHESHIRE — The Hartford-based Connecticut Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling for state authorities to investigate an alleged act of anti-Islamic hate speech at the Cheshire Correctional Institution.

In a letter to Angel Quiros, acting director of the Connecticut Department of Correction, CAIR-CT Chairman Farhan Memon said Shem Brijbilas, a correctional officer at the Cheshire facility, had been “the target of repeated homophobic and anti-Muslim harassment by other officers,” including through a false incident report circulated among staff in April.

The alleged report, framed to indicate it was written by Brijbilas, offers homophobic rhetoric, uses multiple racial slurs and suggests that Muslim-Americans are “inferior to the White Race” and should be on “bended knees to serve ... Aryan masters.”

It ends with “God Bless the United States of White America,” written in all caps, and “HH,” a common white supremacist notation for “Heil Hitler.”

In his letter, Memon noted there were multiple references to “‘14/88 SS’ which are codes used within the white supremacist and neo-Nazi movement in America.”

Brijbilas previously received a similar letter in 2017, which he reported, Memon said. He was told the paperwork had been lost when he asked about the status of that inquiry, Memon said.

Brijbilas wrote in an incident report, also shared by CAIR, that the “hate and blatant disregard” for his religion, ethnicity and culture in the false document was “surprising and very hurtful.”

“How can I not feel targeted and not fear for my safety within the department?” Brijbilas wrote. “... The embarassment I feel is indescribable and at no point do I feel safe in such a volatile and hateful work environment and I am concerned for my safety and mental health wellbeing.”

Quiros responded to Memon’s letter, according to a document shared by CAIR, saying the matter was under investigation, as was the 2017 complaint.

“This behavior is unacceptable and does not represent the correctional professionals that approach public service with dignity, fairness and inclusion,” said Quiros. “This investigation will involve multiple employee interviews. An investigation of this magnitude will not be concluded in 10 days.”

Quiros declined to provide any other details regarding the incident or the investigation in his letter responding to Memon.

Elizabeth Benton, a spokeswoman with Attorney General William Tong’s office, said in a statement Tuesday that Tong is “aware of this letter and deeply troubled by its contents.”

“The Office of the Attorney General will be in contact with the Department of Corrections and any appropriate criminal authorities,” Benton said.

Check back for updates.

luther.turmelle@hearstmediact.com