In 1972, Indian inmates at the Nebraska Penal and Correctional Complex filed a Section 1983 class action suit, pro se, in the District of Nebraska against officials of the Nebraska Department of Corrections. Plaintiffs claimed deprivations of rights secured to them under the First and Fourteenth ...
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In 1972, Indian inmates at the Nebraska Penal and Correctional Complex filed a Section 1983 class action suit, pro se, in the District of Nebraska against officials of the Nebraska Department of Corrections. Plaintiffs claimed deprivations of rights secured to them under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that officials refused to permit an Indian Culture Club; that access to Indian religion was denied to them; and that they were discriminated against in the work rehabilitation process.
In October 1974, the parties reached an agreement and the District Court (Judge Warren K. Urbom) approved a consent decree. The consent decree required defendants to meet several of the plaintiffs' religious requests and improve the work and educational opportunities available to the plaintiffs. Specifically, the consent decree required defendants to permit the wearing of traditional Indian hairstyles and to recognize the Indian Culture Club.
In May 1976, a supplemental consent decree was entered and signed by the court; it resolved a dispute over the meaning of paragraph 2 of the original consent decree. The supplemental consent decree recognized a sweat lodge as a ""facility"" for the worship of Indian religion.
In 1987, litigation renewed over the constitutionality of only allowing one official medicine man. The court held that the plaintiff's rights were violated by defendants' policy of hiring an official medicine man from a variant sect of the Sioux tribe who held beliefs contrary to those of the plaintiff. Indian Inmates of the Nebraska Penitentiary v. Gunter, 660 F. Supp. 394 (D. Neb. 1987). Defendants appealed, but the Court of Appeals affirmed. Sapanajin v. Gunter, 857 F.2d 463 (8th Cir. 1988).
Litigation has continued throughout the last three years. Plaintiffs filed a motion for contempt which was denied, but resulted in a new settlement agreement that was approved by Judge Urbom in March 2005. The new settlement agreement includes the Articles and By-Laws of the Native American Club, allows members of the Native American Club to hold two Pow-Wows per year, and establishes a procedure for the Native American Club to acquire food for religious purposes.
The PACER docket for this case contains only entries from July 2003 through March 2005.Eoghan Keenan - 06/10/2005