Faith and spiritual development is important to many inmates in prison. There is a diversity of religious groups that are recognized by the BOP, which provides space and accommodations for services. On religious holidays inmates are allowed to have time off from work to participate in, or recognize, religious observances. Faiths recognized range from Christian, to Jewish, to Mormon, to Hindu, to Muslim, to Native American to Wicca. Most organized religions or spiritual beliefs that you can find in the outside world you can find in prison.
The BOP employs full-time Chaplains in all institutions to accommodate the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion, manage religious programs, and provide pastoral care to inmates and staff. Chaplains routinely evaluate the needs of inmates in the institution and facilitate programs which address those needs. Religious Services departments offer programs directly related to spiritual development, community reentry, family relationships, personal responsibility, and basic religious instruction. Chaplains provide spiritual programs across the spectrum of faiths represented in the inmate population. Chaplains also train and familiarize staff regarding diverse religious beliefs and practices of inmates, while providing guidance for institution compliance with the First Amendment and legal standard established by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Second Chance Act of 2007.
A religious diet program is available in the BOP. The religious diet program offers religiously certified foods for those whose religious dietary needs necessitate a certification, or a no-flesh component, which allows inmates to self-select from foods to meet their religious dietary needs.
You have to have registered with BOP Staff (usually during initial intake) as being of a certain faith in order to participate in holiday remembrance, release from work, special meal or special ceremonies. You cannot pick a religion based on the group of people you happen to be socializing with .. you have to state a religion.
The holidays celebrated in prison are much like the ones recognized across America. However, there are some holidays that are more special for the inmate population. Those are Christmas, Thanksgiving and July 4th.
While Christmas (Christian), Hanukkah (Judaism) and Ramadan (Muslim) are all recognized by the BOP, the institutional holiday is noted as being Christmas (December 25th). At Christmas, the BOP gives each inmate a bag of candy to celebrate the holiday (candy bars, mints and a small box of Hostess-type cakes). It is not much but it is about the only thing the prison gives out during the year.
There is also a large meal served either on Christmas or Christmas Eve during the lunch hour. Turkey, ham and dressing, traditional holiday meal, is served and it is usually the best meal of the year. Upon leaving the lunch meal, inmates are given a bag lunch for dinner because the dining hall will be closed for the evening meal. Most inmates are so full from the main meal that there is no desire to eat anything else.
If an inmate has dietary restrictions as it relates to their beliefs, (e.g. kosher, no pork, vegan, etc.) those too are respected and prisons make every effort to comply with the faith-based needs of the inmate.