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Privileges ease spell in prison for pagans
A record number of lifers, foreigners, Muslims and pagans are in jails in England and Wales, according to figures published yesterday.
The report portrays an overcrowded prison system whose population resembles the United Nations, with representatives of faiths including Ethiopian Orthodox, Rastafarianism and the Nation of Islam.
English and Welsh prisons hold inmates from 174 of the 192 officially recognised states in the world and members of 47 religions. The number of pagans has almost tripled in six years, to reach a peak of 366 last year.
Paganism was recognised by the Prison Service as a religion more than eight years ago, with official instructions issued to governors and staff on its beliefs and how it is practised.
Inmates practising paganism are allowed among their possessions a hoodless robe, a flexible twig for a wand, incense and a piece of jewellery. Pagans are also allowed to have “rune stones (wood, stone or clay tablets with the symbols of the ancient Norse-German alphabet) and a bag or box to carry them”. The Prison Service has made clear that the hoodless robe can be used only during private worship in an inmate’s cell or when a number of pagans in one prison gather for worship.
Pagan prisoners are also allowed to have tarot cards but staff say they cannot be used to tell the fortunes of other inmates. Guidance issued to prison staff said: “Some pagans use tarot cards for meditation and guidance. This may be allowed under the supervision of the pagan chaplain. If a prisoner requests to be allowed to retain a part or full pack, this may be allowed, but only following a local risk assessment to determine whether there is any reason to preclude cards. The cards are for personal use only and may be withdrawn if used inappropriately.”
Skyclad, or naked worship, is not allowed under Prison Service rules. Inmates are allowed to select two dates from a list of festivals when they are excused from work. They include Samhain, as Hallowe’en is know in paganism, the vernal equinox and the midsummer solstice. The guidance to governors also says that pagans can use wine in their worship, but “individual consumption will be one sip only”.
Yet while paganism is recognised as a religion by the prison service, Rastafarianism, which has 340 members in English and Welsh jails, and the Nation of Islam, with six members, are not.
Now burn all your books, including mine. - Sendivogius
- Number of posts : 209
Registration date : 2008-09-01
I wonder about discrimination inside the prisons... I wonder if there's the same exclusion for 'unorthodox spiritual traditions' as is often experienced elsewhere.
"Sacred Activism is the fusion of the mystic's passion for God with the activist's passion for justice, creating a third fire, which is the burning sacred heart that longs to help, preserve, and nurture every living thing." - Andrew Harvey
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Registration date : 2008-08-10
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