Pagans in Prison
(Inmates performing a Druid Ritual: Source)
The number of Prisoners who identify as Pagans is growing, and many of these prisoners need adequate spiritual services that fit their path.
According to The Wild Hunt, around 2% of all prisoners are adherents to a Pagan or Earth based Nature Religion.
It is interesting that many prisoners have found their Pagan faith while in prison.
Also, according to OldenWilde.org, prisoners who convert to Wicca have a very low re-incarceration rate.
Now, many reading this might think, who cares abut services for prisoners, they broke the law – they should be punished!
However, we must keep in mind that the U.S. has a vast and growing prison complex. There are many people who are arrested for non-violent crimes such as prostitution or drug use. Drug use is a disease that should be treated with therapy, not jail. It has also been shown that therapy is more effective for treating people who abuse drugs, rather than jail time.
Attending to the spiritual needs of Pagan prisoners is important for giving them a Spiritual Path that can help prevent future crimes, and give them a sense of hope to better their lives. So check out the resources for Pagan Prisoners on this page:
(Source: Artwork From a Prisoner)
Religion in Prisons – A 50-State Survey of Prison Chaplains
What the New Pew Forum Survey Tells Us About Pagan Religions in U.S. Prisons (Patheos)
Culture and Community: The Complexity of Pagans in Prison (The Wild Hunt)
Wiccans in Prison (OldenWilde)
Pagan Prisoner Advocate’s Guide (Download)
Agreed. Having committed a crime does not remove someone’s personhood, or mean that they are not entitled to at least some small comforts. Spirituality is a healing force that creates positive changes in a person’s life. It makes sense to support that, especially when we know that people who embrace positive spirituality tend to have a lower rate of recidivism.
The number of people jailed for doing drugs is another reason I support legalization. It makes no sense to me to put someone who is incredibly ill with heroin addiction or who is locked up on a minor marijuana charge into the general population with rapists and murderers. The funds used to keep them incarcerated could be better spent via rehab or legalizing marijuana.
June 26, 2014 at 10:11 am
Definitely! I agree with everything here. Much of the time spent on containing and prosecuting drug users could be better spent on tracking down the real criminals, rapists and murderers. I’ve heard that a crazy number of rapists and murderers actually get away with their crimes because there isn’t enough time or resources to investigate these cases.
Drug addiction is a disease that requires therapy, not imprisonment. Many drug users get to a much better place when they are given drugs like Methadone that help them combat their addiction. We certainly wouldn’t lock someone up for being an alcoholic, so we shouldn’t do the same to other addicts.
And yeah, I think spirituality is a powerful thing for people in jail who have no other hope of improving their lives. These people know that once they get out, there is going to be a black mark on their record that prevents them from getting gainful employment. With little else to hope for, sometimes spirituality can be the most powerful thing.
June 26, 2014 at 1:14 pm
Hey! That’s a picture of ADF members! Awesome! I just joined a couple weeks ago, which wasn’t a trivial matter (I’ve been “solitary” for 20+ years).
Great article! I agree that we can’t just ignore our incarcerated. They may have committed crimes, but the success rate of punishment has proven that it does NOT stop or reverse crime. They need rehabilitation, and not from a psychiatrist or psychologist, as their track records such too. I believe religion & a willingness to sincerely improve is what will do it. But that’s a whole other conversation.
On a side note, I know we’re being told by supposed professionals that addiction is a disease, and who are we to argue when this isn’t our specialty, right? We’ll, having been a drug addict, I can tell you with full certainty that addiction is most definitely NOT a disease. The “professionals” saying this are psychiatry and psychology, whom have no better than a 16% success rate using their “methods” (success rates are based off those that actually complete a method or another, and are clean years later). When they say it is a disease with no cure, what they’re really saying is that they have no idea what they’re doing. They’re saying they don’t have a solution, but they still want your money, so they mislead you by convincing you to stop looking for a real solution.
I’ve been clean for 16 years. It is not a struggle everyday. It has only gotten easier. Narconon is the program I went to, and they don’t use drugs or psychiatrists. If they did, they wouldn’t have a 70-80% success rate. You probably haven’t heard about it, or you’ve hear slander, because a lot of money is a stake.
To bring this back to the OP, Criminon is a program quite similar to Narconon, but it is for criminals and usually done in prisons. They’re one of the few programs focused on rehabilitation, and I would suggest we all do what we can to help them out because they have the most successful method 🙂
Sorry if this is tl:dr lol.
July 7, 2014 at 12:03 pm
Yeah! Pagan Prison Ministry is really important! I sent 300 Neopagan books to various prisons. A lot of Heathens in prison are racist Nazis, so sending them other types of Heathen books to my mind might help them think beyond the brainwashing they have. Prison is very boring and books in general are needed. You can contact your local prison’s chaplain and ask about rules regarding books. (Instructions for mead making or a drawing of a naked woman may make them reject the book.) There is very high drug addiction in prison: 60% of women in prison are on a heavy antipsychtoic called Seroquel which has lifelong devastating effects far greater than heroin. It’s shot up now called Suzy Q. Prisons offer no therapy and all they have for recovery is Christian based AA and the Chaplain. All “minority religions” need materials – from Wiccans to Rastas to Native Americans to Buddhists.
There very dedicated people who go to prisons and meet one on one with other Neopagans and hold rituals, although most ritual tools of course are not allowed. It has been shown that Native American men often learn about their own culture and religion in prison for the first time, giving them a sense of pride and worth and community which the mainstream culture has denied them. So it does much good.
The US has more of its population imprisoned than any other nation. It’s one the major industries. They began to be owned by corporations like GE as opposed to the state or federal government in the 1980s. Today they are plantations, where people work all day for $3 a day just to have something to do, working for the corporation that owns the prison. Slave labor. Most (89%?) of those in prison are there for drug or alcohol related offenses, not just selling or having drugs,but the stupid things drunk people do: violence, driving, rape, crime to get drug money. As each prisonor costs about $60,000 a day for tax payers (that was about 15 years ago so it’s probably much more), preventative treatment to make sure people don’t feel the need for drugs and alcohol would much much less expensive for tax payers. That however would mean funding schools, teaching in smaller class sizes, great health care, empowering POC who are the targets of the prison system (African-Americans are 11% of the American population but something like 60% of inmates with 1 in 4 men involved somehow in the “justice system.” They are doing the exact same crimes as white people but white people get lesser sentences. So it is systematic racism, keeping black from the right to vote and making it even harder to get work, which is why having prison being an educational experience like for the men who started Kwanza or Malcolm X who learned to appreciate their own people is important.
Learning to appreciate and not feel ashamed of who you are is a big step in preventing and ending addiction and the crimes that go with them. Now prisons are usually 40% overcrowded and food has been cut back. There are no educational programs, but there is violence and rape to make them have PTSD with no treatment when they leave, thus adding to the addict population as PTSD is often the reason for addiction.
Benjamin Franklin thought jails would just be where people were kept until each person had a sentence. Putting already off course people in cramped, violent conditions run by gangs with no help for any of their past issues and no help with changing their futures punishes SOCIETY. Someone who does drugs to ease the pain of childhood abuse, a hopeless economic situation and systemic poverty being put inside with no natural light, with terrible food, constant fear of rape and violence, tons of heavy psychiatric drugs, and no support whatsoever will in no way rehabilitate them. 85% of people go back to prison, proof that our capitalist prison workcamps are just a way to exploit those who are already the victims of a very sick society so corporations can make a lot of money.
Also I agree with antessus. Everyone I know who kicked without a 12 step program stayed clean and also dealt with WHY they did drugs, the social, emotional, societal reasons, as opposed to staying obsessed with being an addict for life. My 12 step friends may be “clean” but they haven’t addressed any emotional issues, just blame it on biochemistry. As biochemistry being the reasons for “mental illnesses” no longer is believed because no proof has ever been found, addiction as a disease doesn’t fit either. the 12 steps are so very Christian focusing on sin and powerlessness, as a Heathen they don’t work for me. 12 step programs have a 1% success rate. However some friends did what they call the 13th step, getting a rewarding life instead of obsessing with others about their addiction. Also as one 12 step friend says “We replace addiction to drugs to coffee, slogans, cigarettes, food, sex, gambling.” The cause of any addiction is to usually push away uncomfortable emotions and the healing occurs when someone can be with their emotions, not just find new ways to repress them in fear.
July 8, 2014 at 3:18 pm