This is an interesting subject at the moment. Lots of that going around, lots of it in the air. My wife and a close friend are taking paralegal classes, I am taking a grueling Boundaries and Ethics class, and there's always something going on at the prison.
The latter seems most precedent for the moment. The prison like all prisons is full of inmates. Convicted Felons. As I said before about my beginning as a Wiccan Chaplain, I didn't think I was suited well for prison work. I idea of inmates complaining about their cable TV being out makes my skin crawl.
But I do think they are entitled to religious rights. Oddly on the inside it seems to be quite the opposite. Just like the rest of us, the inmates face religious discrimination on a regular basis.
However this varies from prison to prison and state to state. My prison is great. I was sought out by the administration and welcomed with open arms. I have only faced relatively minor problems with a few select individuals. The biggest one was Chapel use and it worked out for the best in the long run.
So on a regular basis inmates complain about religious discrimination by custody staff. During one of my services last month the Chapel clerk tapped on the window and motioned for an inmate. I waved him in and he explained that a guard had recalled an inmate. The inmate took a deep breath, exhaled and slumped over for a moment of preparation, shook his head, said his goodbyes and left without commenting.
a few minutes later the same thing happened again. Then again. But the names where not real inmate names, like Gaylord Falker. My congregation commented on a guard we'll call Rubeus. They explained that Rubeus was an extreme evangelical Christan who made their lives a living hell. To include verbal harassment and routinely taking their Pagan books and religious materials without cause. every inmate in his building has had something taken by this guard who is not going to have any devil worshipping in his building.
This has been burning a hole in me. You CANNOT deny ME my first amendment rights and justify it with YOUR faith.
In my welcome letter, I include a statement of purpose. It says "...to provide and facilitate religious programs and services to the minority faith population on behalf of the facility.
Meaning to the inmates for the prison. So I had another cool idea. I have created a new service to provide to the inmates for the prison. Sacred Text and Materials Protection I call it STAMP.
I researched the regulations pertaining to this issue, yes ALL of them. and came up with an identification system for my congregations religious materials, complete with a tracking number.
A sticker identifying the material as religious, each sticker is numbered and logged in a registry. The reason for tracking is two fold, it's an oversight to prevent inmate tampering and if a guard decides to confiscate them or throw them away, the inmate has supporting documentation of the property.
On a positive note, I feel it necessary to mention that not all guards and staff share this attitude. Many honestly just don't know, understand or could careless as long as you got "chrono" or the documentation to back it up.
Here's a really great book, written by one of my favorite bloggers. It was a gift from a close friend. Thank you both.
*click on the picture for close up.