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Settlement of Lawsuit Brings Inmate Back

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jimmy Neal Kinslow, an alumnus of the Penitentiary of New Mexico Independence Day 1987 escape by seven inmates, is back at the New Mexico prison after a hiatus in Florida, with an agreement from authorities that gives him access to a sweat lodge.

Kinslow, 53, was initially imprisoned on a conviction for killing and raping a Chaparral woman and her two daughters aged 6 and 8 in 1978. Following his 1987 escape, he broke into a Flagstaff home and forced five family members to come with him to Barstow, Calif., where he tied up four of them in a motel room and left with an 11-year-old girl. The child was released the next day, and Kinslow was captured.

In prison, Kinslow has explored his native roots as a registered member of the Potawatomi tribe.

Kinslow first sued Corrections in 2007 to have access to materials required to practice his religion. He reached an agreement with officials in 2009, and from April to October was allowed to go to the sweat lodge to conduct religious ceremonies.

But New Mexico shipped him to Florida in October 2009 under an interstate compact.

Florida cut his hair “under threat of physical violence,” contrary to religious practice that calls for hair to be cut only upon the death of a close relative, according to Kinslow’s lawsuit. It did not allow sweat lodges and had no established program for Native Americans to practice their religion, he claimed.


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Kinslow filed a new civil rights suit in New Mexico, which ultimately led to a new settlement agreement in December 2010. Kinslow was returned to New Mexico.

He agreed to placement in segregation, though authorities agreed to re-evaluate his ability to return to less restrictive housing within 18 months. He cannot be transferred to another penal institution unless he can have substantially similar religious access.

The state agreed to pay his law firm $4,500 to aid in replacing his personal and religious items, and to pay $2,500 in legal fees.

The settlement agreement spells out items to be made available to Kinslow for the sweat lodge ceremony, including sage, milk thistle, rhubarb root, corn pollen, prayer tobacco and bearberry leaves.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal