Beginning this summer, DPS will help hundreds of prisoners of the Nation of Gods and Earths religion practice their faith. Pursuant to a settlement agreement between DPS and NCPLS’s client, DPS will also stop its long-standing practice of classifying NGE prisoners as gang members purely because of their religious beliefs. Since NCPLS’s client had to litigate a federal civil rights case to force DPS to respect his First Amendment rights, DPS will reimburse him for the costs he incurred in his litigation.
NGE is an offshoot of Islam and has roots in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Predominantly practiced by black men and women, NGE is a non-violent religion that focuses on learning, peace, and empowerment. Before this settlement, DPS prohibited NGE prisoners from practicing their faith — DPS refused to allow NGE adherents to fast, congregate for worship, possess holy texts, or display their ceremonial flag. For decades and without just cause, DPS designated NGE adherents as gang members as a matter of course, curtailing their privileges, limiting their chances of obtaining parole, and tainting them with a stigma that followed them well after they left prison.
DPS will begin making accommodations for NGE adherents to practice their religion, just as Christian, Jewish, and other prisoners can, and NGE prisoners will no longer fear being marked as gang members because of their religious beliefs. DPS’s historical hostility toward NGE adherents is just one consequence of the white supremacism that certain of its practices are rooted in. NCPLS is excited to continue challenging unjust policies in our state prison system and animating the civil rights of those people living in it.