|USA||INMATES' ROSARIES CONFISCATED AS GANG SYMBOL|
Inmates in Massachusetts' state prisons are not permitted to keep rosaries because prison officials say they are used as gang symbols, prompting one inmate to file suit saying his First Amendment rights have been violated.
Peter Kane said corrections officers confiscated his rosary in July 1997 after a surprise inspection of his cell. On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments in his lawsuit. In an affidavit, Peter Pepe Jr., superintendent of the prison in Shirley, said gangs were becoming "a major source of disruption to the safety, security, and internal order of Massachusetts prisons." Rosaries were among the items put on a list of restricted items. Department spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Kane can have rosary beads -- as long as they are only one color. His were black and white.
A lower court said the inmates' rights "may be curtailed in order to achieve legitimate correctional goals or to maintain prison security." Kane's attorney, John Reinstein of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the message officials are sending is: "If you want to pray, pray our way."