Prison system sued over religion policy

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A convicted rapist has filed suit against the state prison system, claiming he isn’t allowed to preach Christianity to fellow inmates.

Peter Paul Ventura Jr., 47, an inmate at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, recently filed the lawsuit against the Department of Correction in Superior Court.

Ventura is seeking an injunction requiring the department to end any actions that he claims put a burden on his religious practice.

The lawsuit alleges Ventura has been threatened with disciplinary action if he “preaches, teaches or fellowships in the Christian faith,” in the prison yard or recreation area.

Ventura wants the department to be required to implement a policy allowing a gathering of four inmates in any prison yard or dayroom, with freedom to practice their faith.

The prison system allows for collective religious activities but they must be led by individuals authorized by the department, such as a chaplain or religious volunteer of the same faith of the group gathering.

Edward Ramsey, spokesman for the Department of Correction, said all of its policies are in place to ensure the safety of staff, inmates and the public.

An inmate preaching to a group of other inmates, as Ventura would like, is not allowed.

“Inmates who congregate without supervision can create a safety and security issue,” Ramsey said.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Associated Press, USA
May 10, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday May 11, 2004.
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