AZ Prisoners Fight to Practice Hawaiian Religion

Stating their religion is vital to their rehabilitation, prisoners in AZ have filed a class-action lawsuit.

A few days ago, the Judge Leslie Kobayashi awarded over one hundred Arizonian inmates the class-action status to fight in court for their rights to practice their Native Hawaiian religion.

Though it may seem strange that a large number of inmates in Arizona are fighting to practice a religion unique to Hawaii, it’s important to know the Hawaii Department of Public Safety sends overflow prisoners to Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona. The state pays over $130 million dollars for Saguaro to maintain those that cannot be held on Hawaii’s mainland.

It was reported that prison guards confiscated important religious items and prevented outside worship that is necessary for accurately following the Hawaiian religion.

Inmates sued because they felt that their rights were being infringed by prison officials.

Incarcerated Fight for Religious Freedom

Additionally, they believe the religion is a vital part of their rehabilitation process, including recognizing with the Native Hawaiian identity. The Judge has finally awarded them class-action status to fight for their beliefs in court. The status covers anyone who practices this religion and is housed in Saguaro, which is the second largest faith in the prison. However, many of the followers feel too constrained by the guards to attend the group worship functions.

While the large Asian population of Hawaii follows the popular Eastern religions of Buddhism and Shintoism, more than half follow some type of Christian denomination. However, traditional practices are still a major part of the area. Unfortunately, the special pendants, coconut oils, and clothing items necessary to follow formal traditions of the island are not allowed at the Arizona prison, which the almost two hundred inmates feel are well within their Constitutional and naturally granted rights for religious freedoms.

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