Monday, March 21, 2005

Courts Consider Cell Block Spirituality

Good news for Indians incarcerated in Nebraska. The U.S. District Judge Court recently ruled that they may practice traditional ceremonies, including the right to "have two powwows a year and use traditional foods such as fry bread, corn and 'berry dish' in their ceremonies.[..]The inmates agreed not to use tobacco which is banned in prison but will use chinshasha, which is made from the bark of red willow trees, as a substitute." (I never knew powwows and fry bread where traditional, but that doesn't diminish their point.)

Considering how important one's religion is and how hard many Native prisoners have fought for the right to worship in a traditional way, this ruling is a positive sign. And on the pragmatic side, it seems like the practice of one's chosen religion in prison faciliates the rehabilitation process, including "reductions in alcoholism and anti-social behavior, decreased recidivism rate, and improved self-esteem and dignity".

In a related case, Jason at The Wild Hunt writes today that the Supreme Court is hearing a case involving religious rights from minority and/or controversial pagan religions from inmates in Ohio. Folks over there don't seem to be very optimistic that that ruling will be positive.


Blogger Dr. Strangejazz said...

I wonder what the percentage of Native Americans are in jail as opposed to White Americans.

I gotta look that up. Good post.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Ladysekhmet9 said...

Another relating court case from 1995, also from the Nebraska State Penitentiary, is Rust v. Clark. The case concerns Asatru worshippers wanting to use certain religious items and celebrate holidays in prison. The courts declined, however, saying the items would compromise the safety of the prison. (The items included such things as a sauna and individual stone altars.) So I guess ruling can differ even concerning the same Prison system. Thanks for the Ohio link.

11:13 AM  

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