Montana Prisons Settle with Native Americans over Alleged Religious Discrimination

July 10, 2003

Source: Helena Independent Record

On July 10, 2003 the Helena Independent Record reported that "Montana State Prison officials and American Indian inmates reached a settlement out of court recently over alleged religious discrimination by prison officials... The inmates’ complaint pinpointed 16 different ways in which prison officials allegedly misused Department of Corrections policies to shut down or limit American Indians’ traditional religious practices while allowing non-Indian denominations to function with less or no intrusion... Even though prison officials agreed to settle with the complainants, the settlement agreement states that prison officials aren’t admitting to any violation of law or other wrongdoing... Inmates Manuel Redwoman, Danny A. Arledge, Wayne Brown and Bill Smock filed a complaint against the MSP with the Human Rights Bureau in November 2002... The inmates said prison officials belittled and oppressed American Indians by limiting and/or confiscating religious materials or by direct verbal attacks on American Indian ethnicity, culture and religion... For example, inmates stated that their dream catchers, rattles, medicine wheels, bone chokers and medicine bags were confiscated under a policy that stated the items must be store bought and ordered through Father Pins, a Catholic priest, or such items were considered contraband."