Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Prison Should Have Allowed Inmate to Use Sweat Lodge

Yellowbear v. Lampert, 2014 WL 241981 (1/23/14) (Wyo.) (Published) - A Wyoming prison violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act when it refused to allow Mr. Yellowbear to use the sweat lodge at the prison. The prison substantially burdened Mr. Yellowbear's right to engage in a religious exercise under the Northern Arapaho faith. The prison failed to show its sweat-lodge prohibition served a compelling government interest and was the least restrictive means to serve that interest. There was no support in the record for the prison's claim that the hot coals and fire were unsafe. Nor did the need to lock the prison down to safely get Mr. Yellowbear to the sweat lodge pass muster. [Mr. Yellowbear was in a special protective unit because of threats to him]. The prison locked down on a daily basis to move certain prisoners for non-religious purposes. The prison didn't present evidence to support its claim that if it let Mr. Yellowbear use the sweat lodge other specially-housed inmates would flood the prison with requests. And Mr. Yellowbear suggested the prison could avoid a lock-down by letting him go to the sweat lodge early in the morning or by building a second sweat lodge in the protective custody unit. The prison didn't show why those alternatives wouldn't work.