Posted on April 27, 2011 by Nels Linde
The inmates at various Department of Correction Facilities have been tracking this discussion of Pagans in Prison, and are aware of the civil rights issue in Stillwater Prison. Nearly all Pagans in prison find that path in prison. They have no history with a ‘Pagan community’. They have the idea that we as Pagans have a spiritual community like many Christian groups do. Inmates, therefore, tend to have a real idealized vision of our ‘Pagan community’. We are presumed to have facilities, programs, ministers, outreach programs, and the dedication to help our ‘brethren’ in need, and they know they certainly need help. Maybe they suffer from the same attitude we hold, we want a lot from our community and don’t have the time or resources to put a lot into it.
Many of the facilities have functions, and Faribault is considered an ‘exit’ facility. It houses over 2200 mainly low risk inmates, double bunked, with mainly shorter terms. They are preparing to leave incarceration in a few months to a few years, and will be approaching our community as they seek their Pagan paths.
What do you want from the Pagan community as Pagans in Prison?
We want to be able to learn more, and to be able to meet people in a positive fashion. We want to start building some positive relationships now, that will be available to us once we get on the outside. Ninety percent of us are here because of the people we hung around with. When we get out, if we hang with the same people, we will be back in here. We need Pagan people to hang with! (more…)
Filed under: Editorial, Human Interest, Political Opinion | Tagged: clergy, inmates, interviews, pagan, prison, religious, Stillwater, Wicca | Comments Off
Posted on April 22, 2011 by Nels Linde
George A Edgar, Wiccan Minister and Pagan Prison Religious Volunteer at three Minnesota Correctional Institutions; Stillwater, Faribault, and Shakopee
How are these decisions about religious civil rights for Pagans in prison made ?
The important decisions about what inmates can have or do in their religious practice are made by those that are least qualified and educated to do so. If you are pulled over for speeding it is the police officer who decides if you get a ticket, not a judge, a specialist in the law. If you say, ” I am on my way to minister to inmates”, they might just say, “Have a nice day”, and let you go. That has happened to me! It is the same in the prison system, it is the guards and the chaplains who decide what goes on. When you get to the upper echelon, the Warden or the Department of Corrections, and they get excited, you tend to see draconian measures because they don’t want any headaches. They see things very practically, and the Pagans represent a slippery slope. They had to cave into the Native Americans. They allow outdoor ritual, the sweat lodge, the use of tobacco, now what if the Druids want that too? If you can get three or four guys together and a religious volunteer, you become a legitimate religious group. All of a sudden you may have thirty outdoor rituals a week, with special guards and space requirements. Where is the funding, where are the extra staff? They just don’t want the headache. They want to stop this as best they can.
Filed under: Community Notes, Editorial, Human Interest | Tagged: civil rights, incarceration, inmate, interviews, minnesota, pagan, prison, Stillwater, teaching, Wicca | 3 Comments »
Posted on April 19, 2011 by Nels Linde
This begins a series about Pagans in Prison, and those who ‘minister’ to them. Religious volunteers report most Pagan prisoners find their Pagan path once they are incarcerated. The loss of freedom that prison represents is a strong motivator to find some meaning in life, and Pagan spirituality often offers the most relevant choice. Prisoners are invisible to us, unless they get publicity. I hope this series increases our awareness of this part of our community for, sooner or later, many will return to our general society, and look for spiritual support.
What is critical to understand within this topic, is the difference between loss of freedom, and loss of civil rights. Prisoners retain some civil rights even while in prison. Our Constitution’s First Amendment is about religious freedom, and within bounds, remains in force for those incarcerated. I had the opportunity to interview one of the foremost authorities regarding religious civil rights and prison, and Patrick McCollum also happens to be a Pagan. Read his qualifications at the end of this interview!
There are prisoners convicted of state and federal crimes, often mixed together in state institutions, does it matter?
The principles are exactly the same in the law. In federal prisons there are some additional provisions that grant additional rights, more than state prison systems, but what I’ll talk about is applicable to both systems.
What are a prisoners civil rights regarding religion in prison?
There was a law upheld by the Supreme Court (unanimous) in 2005, called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, (RLUIPA) which laid out the basics of what religious accommodation prisoner of all faiths have right to. What the act says is that the state is required to accommodate each and every inmates religious need.
Filed under: Editorial, Human Interest | Tagged: civl tights, freedom, lawsuit, pagan, Patrick McCollum, prison, religious, rluipa, Stillwater, Wicca, Wisconsin | 5 Comments »