A former inmate who practices Satanism has filed a lawsuit alleging that prison employees violated her constitutional rights by confiscating her religious materials and prohibiting her from engaging in rituals with other inmates.
Monica Lujan argues in a civil rights lawsuit that Corrections Corporation of America and three of its employees, along with a state Department of Corrections worker, violated her right to religious freedom, which is protected by both the state and U.S. constitutions. CCA runs the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants, where Lujan was housed.
“Inmates do not shed their civil rights at the prison door,” Lujan says in her lawsuit, which was filed last week in state District Court.
Lujan, who was incarcerated from August 2013 to August 2016 on nonviolent offenses, alleges that she requested a copy of “The Satanic Bible” upon arrival and several times after that, but her requests were denied.
She also asked permission to associate with and engage in rituals with other Satanists in the facility, but she was told that the Corrections Department “prohibited the practice of Satanism.”
The New Mexico Department of Corrections spokeswoman could not be reached for comment Friday. CCA did not respond to a request for comment.
KOAT-TV reported that Lujan was serving time for drug offenses and forgery. She lives in Bernalillo County.
Lujan, who has practiced Satanism since she was 13, says in the lawsuit that the religion does not promote a belief in Satan, but is predicated upon pragmatism, skepticism and materialism.
She filed a complaint in August 2015 after her requests for “The Satanic Bible” were repeatedly denied and was told that the satanic materials were not allowed into the facility.
Lujan was also “berated” by chaplain John Compton, a defendant in the case, for her religion and because of her requests, according to the lawsuit.
During a search of her belongings in April, Dolly Jaramillo, a CCA employee, found photocopies of “The Satanic Bible” excerpts, a prayer book and a drawing of a pentagram.
Lujan says she told Jaramillo, who is also a defendant in the case, that she practices Satanism and was told that inmates cannot have Satanist literature, artifacts and materials.
Jaramillo then allegedly confiscated all of Lujan’s religious items “and nearly all of her belongings,” including her clothing, bedding, toiletries, legal paperwork and correspondence with her attorney.
When Lujan objected, she was told that she could be placed in solitary confinement, she alleges.
“Defendants’ retaliatory actions, based entirely on their disapproval and misunderstanding of (Lujan’s) religion,” the suit says, “did not serve any legitimate penological interest.”
Lujan says she filed claims requesting the return of her belongings, but the facility never responded. She was unable to earn enough money working in the kitchen to replace the items and “spent the remainder of her time at NMWCF lacking the bare essentials of personal hygiene, clothing and bedding,” according to the suit. Her belongings were not returned upon her release from prison.
The suit says the ban on satanic literature and opportunity to associate with other believers, as well as the retaliation she faced by some employees, constitute violations of the state and federal constitutions.
Lujan asks that she be awarded compensatory damages, pain and suffering and legal fees.