Idaho prison removes tribal sweat lodge

Aug 25, 2011

BOISE – Idaho prison officials dismantled a sweat lodge Wednesday. it was used mainly by Native Americans to worship.

Prisoners have used the sweat lodge at the South Idaho Correctional Institution in Kuna for decades. Deputy Chief of Prisons Jeff Zmuda says they are remodeling the outdoor area and removed the lodge for safety and security reasons.

"Concerned about some contraband that may have been out in that area. And with the sweat lodge it was in a bit of disrepair," Zmuda says. "It had some mold in it."

Zmuda would not go into more detail because of ongoing investigations. But Laverne Beech, a spokeswoman for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, says prison officials should have made other accommodations.

"You know if a church is torn down what happens to where people worship and it's the same kind of situation with the sweat lodge its central to Native religious and spiritual practices," Beech says.

Zmuda says they need to clear some space for prisoners who practice earth-based religions. The sweat lodge will be rebuilt in a few weeks. .

Copyright 2011 Boise State Public Radio