Vermont Department of Corrections restrictions on religious prisoners, Vermont, (2007)

On August 23, 2007, the Becket Fund once again stood up for the religious rights of prisoners. In response to the Vermont Department of Correction’s proposed Directive 380.01, which would have imposed lengthy new regulations on religious practices, the Becket Fund warned Vermont that the proposed regulations might violate the Constitutional rights of inmates. The Becket Fund, in what some have called a “nastygram,” explained to the Vermont Department of Corrections why the proposed regulations raised concerns under federal statutes and the First Amendment.

Among the regulations required by the Directive is the mandatory registration of an inmate’s religious identity, an imposed one-year waiting period before changing religious affiliation, and prohibition of attendance to interfaith religious services without first applying for a permit. The regulations also deny inmates the right to lead religious services—even if they are ordained clergy—and prohibit inmates from “demonstrative prayer” and prayer with others.

Not long after receiving the letter, the head of the Vermont Department of Corrections called up Becket Fund attorneys and told them he would change the proposed rules to accommodate religious exercise: A win for religious freedom in the Green Mountain State.

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