Courts allow inmates to practice various religions - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Courts allow inmates to practice various religions

June 3, 2005

Mitchell County-- The people behind the locked gates at Autry Prison aren't free, but they still have the right to freedom of religion. Douglas T. Simmons, a Clinical Chaplain Program Director says, "Every inmate that makes a request to worship any particular denomination or any particular religion we try to accommodate them the best we can."

The Supreme Court has upheld an unanimous decision brought on by a satanist and a professed witch, saying that while prisoners are inside the prison they should be able to worship whatever religion they want to worship.

Worship that the plaintiffs in that Ohio case were denied. Chaplain Douglas Simmons says that's not a problem at Autry State prison in Mitchell County. "Consistency is the one thing that you've got to have you have to treat every religion the same, as far as their request within the limit of the law."

At Calhoun State Prison, about 100 prisoners take part in a Faith And Character program that allows them to explore any religion. Chaplain Simmons says it's important to give inmates that kind of opportunity. "My job is to make sure that every inmate is allowed to have whatever the state will allow him to have as far as his religious needs."

Needs that may vary from prisoner to prisoner, but needs the state must help them meet. The only way wardens can deny a prisoner the right to express his religious beliefs is if they can prove it will be a disruption.

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