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Court Finds Tobacco Ban Violates Inmates' Rights

April 26, 2014, 12:29 PM

Court Finds Tobacco Ban Violates Inmates' Rights

An appellate court says a tobacco ban in South Dakota prisons violates the constitutional rights of Native American inmates.

The decision affirms the ruling of South Dakota District Judge Karen Schreier. It was appealed by the state's Department of Corrections last year.

The Friday ruling means the Department of Corrections cannot ban tobacco altogether in state prisons.

Inmates may use a mixture of red willow bark and 1 percent tobacco in sweat lodge ceremonies under a plan approved by Schreier last fall.  The Department of Corrections objected to the plan.

The court found in the ruling that the across-the-board ban on all tobacco use constituted a violation of religious liberty not outweighed by the state's interest in maintaining order and security within the prison.

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