A man serving a 10- to 20-year sentence at Benner state prison in Centre County for a Delaware County robbery has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit that would allow a sweat lodge on prison grounds, writes Bret Pallotto for centredaily.com.
Marvin Banks, 28, along with Dale Arnold, 63, settled the lawsuit this week with the state Department of Corrections.
Both men identify as Native Americans. They argued in the suit that the state prison system violated their First Amendment rights by not allowing the sweat lodge.
“The Native American spiritual community at this prison kind of felt like they were not getting all the same opportunities to practice as some of the other religions,” legal associate Logan Hetherington said. “… They just wanted a little bit more to practice their religion communally, which is really important for them.”
It will be up to Banks, Arnold and other inmates to build and maintain the lodge. No taxpayer dollars will be used, except to build a fence around the structure.
It was unclear when the lodge would be built.
“This could be a step in the right direction for Native Americans that are practicing Native American religion within the DOC prisons,” Hetherington said.
Read more about the sweat lodge here.