Religious freedom of people in jail


The Constitutional Court indicated that in a democratic regime, persons deprived of liberty can not be subjected to arbitrary constraints, undue interference or unjust prohibitions in the internal and external development of their life as religious beings.

The Court studied two cases in which protection of the right to religious freedom and cults of persons who were in jail was requested. The petitioners indicated that the prison authorities disrespected the individual exercise of the manifestations of faith, essential for their spiritual experience. In the first case, the person gives his dreadlocks (dreadlocks) at the time of entry to the prison of Yopal (Casanare) despite his active membership in the Rastafari Community for more than 14 years where the hair is a symbol of submission and respect to Jesus Christ and in which, in addition, a vegetarian diet should be taken. In the second case, a person was denied the possibility of entering and keeping in the prison cell of Combita (Boyacá) an image of the Divine Child Jesus, sacred figure of the Catholic Church to which he said he belonged for 20 years.

Prison authorities argued that the restrictions imposed on the exercise of religious freedom and worship of prisoners, is due to compliance with the internal regulations of prisons that impose rules and procedures of conduct for reasons of discipline, security, internal order and healthiness.

The Court concluded that there is a special duty for public authorities to ensure the necessary conditions for people detained in prisons to profess their faith references. The State could intervene in terms concordant with the principles of reasonableness and proportionality to guarantee, as the case may be, the full development of the penitentiary function. On these premises, the Court found that, in both cases, there had been an unjustified restriction on religious and religious freedom because it was not justified why state intervention in religious beliefs was necessary to guarantee compliance with legitimate legal interests such as security. , tranquility and peaceful coexistence in prisons. Much less, it was indicated why it was impossible to consider alternative measures to ensure the spiritual manifestation of the citizens, respecting the general order required in a prison establishment. That is, alternative means at their disposal less burdensome for freedom and proportionate to the benefit sought by prisons.