The Many Forms of Spirituality Inside


Voices from Inside . . .
I am non-dominational. Having a faith while in prison gives hope. We all need something bigger than us. When all you have is yourself, and you can?t handle the situation, it leads to anger, to suicide. By having a spiritual belief you can ask for help: from a power bigger than yourself, and maybe even from other people with whom you pray. Prayer can lead to a different relation with other people.
Guards want to be God, they are the final authority. But you can?t be God just by shutting a gate.
?
At CCWF, when I first stepped onto the grounds of the Native American Indian Lodge I was saddened by the lack of religious rights towards Native Americans…. The ability to practice our religion makes a big difference to us. When I first came to [prison], my spirit was dark. Attending sweat lodge ceremonies helped me become a person I want to be, one that cares about others. That is why I want to fight for our rights at CCWF.
?
My belief system is pagan and I have to fight to be able to practice. We had to file a 602 three years ago to get pagan books. That raised the issue of our right to practice our religious beliefs and we won then. We established a Wiccan program at CCWF. Since then we had a couple more 602?s about violations of our religious rights: illegal searches and seizures of our religious material and harassment.
?
Spirituality is a personal thing. My family is Christian. I believe our lives are destined. There has to have been some reason for my life to unfold as it had, for me to come to prison, to spend so much time here.
?
Spirituality is very different than organized religion. The women I grew up with were very spiritual, though not much for church.
?
Spirituality is what keeps us going. There are religious people who are no better for it. Others don?t belong to a Church, but are very spiritual, connected.
On the Row we can?t go to church. Spiritual advisors have to come to us, they have to stand on the other side of the cage. Some don?t have clearance to come here.
There needs to be more access to religious areas here. It brings peace of mind to attend to whatever your beliefs are. Yet they are always announcing ?service cancelled? or ?sweat lodge closed today.? Anger and frustration build here. Religious service gives you time to cleanse, to communicate with others, with other prisoners and especially with people from outside.
?
Spirituality to me is a God able to help me move mountains and find strength I don?t even know I have. At times, when others might not be available, He is. He can make seemingly impossible situations have possible actions.
The groups we have in the chapel now don?t have an officer looking over us. It is just us trying to make it through this place and have a stronger sense of self through sharing things, sometimes pretty heavy things. Opening yourself up helps find freedom.
We are fighting for a forum to teach each other and to come together.