October 31, 2014

State, inmates far apart on ceremonial tobacco

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – South Dakota corrections officials and an organization of Native American inmates are far apart on suggested revisions to a prison policy regulating the use of tobacco in religious ceremonies.

Chief Judge Karen Schreier ruled in September that the prison system’s ban on tobacco in ceremonies substantially burdens Native American inmates’ religious rights.

Schreier ordered the groups to meet and propose revisions.

The state will allow tobacco at pipe ceremonies but wants the right to prohibit its use in tobacco ties, in prayer flags and inside the prison’s sweat lodge. It also wants to cap the tobacco mix at 1 percent.

The inmates group wants tobacco allowed at all religious ceremonies and says the mix should be limited to 10 percent.

The parties have until Dec. 4 to file objections.

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