Sunday, August 26, 2007

Vermont's Proposed Regulation of Prisoner Religious Practices Criticized

In July, the Vermont Department of Corrections issued for comment proposed Directive 380.01 on religious observances and programs in the state's correctional facilities. Last week the Becket Fund wrote the Department of Corrections objecting to a number of provisions in the proposal. (Full text of letter.) As summarized in its press release, the Becket Fund argued:
These new regulations are incredibly stringent, and in some cases ominous, such as the mandatory registration of an inmate’s religious identity.... In addition to mandatory registration, the regulations deny inmates the right to lead religious services--even if they are ordained clergy--and prohibit inmates from "demonstrative prayer" and prayer with others. The regulations also force inmates to wait for up to a year to change their religious affiliation, and prohibit them from attending interfaith religious services without applying for a permit first.
In response to these objections, as well as concerns expressed by the ACLU, Vermont Corrections Commissioner Rob Hoffman has already made some changes, according to yesterday's Boston Globe.