Brian Hall is a prisoner at Goose Creek Correctional Center (“GCCC”) who is a member of the Cherokee Nation, a Native American tribe. Mr. Hall seeks to wear his bandanna and a bear claw medallion as outward expressions of his spiritual path and of his identity as an adherent of Cherokee religion. This would appear to be a modest accommodation, not least given that DOC allows inmates at a higher security facility, Spring Creek Correctional Center (“SCCC”), to wear bandanas.
Mr. Hall seeks to wear a bear claw medallion because the bear claw is his spirit totem to which he prays in time of need. He decided on this totem through months of meditation, prayer, and sweat lodges.
From before the date Mr. Hall filed this action, DOC has denied his request to wear a bandana as an element of his religious practice. Throughout this time, DOC has also denied his request to purchase and wear a medallion made from a bear claw as an element of his religious practice. The effect of these denials has been a refusal to accommodate his religious needs to the extent required by law.
On June 4, 2019, the ACLU of Alaska has reached a settlement with Alaska DOC to resolve the case.
DOC agreed to essentially all of the accommodations that Mr. Hall had been requesting.
Mr. Hall is now allowed to wear a bear claw pendant (with its claw dulled to minimize its use as a weapon) and bandanas symbolizing his spiritual directions, and DOC has agreed that these items are provided as religious accommodations so they may not be taken from him arbitrarily in the future.
DOC has also agreed to modify its policies governing its responses to inmates’ requests for religious accommodations. Finally, DOC will pay the ACLU of Alaska $30,000 in attorneys’ fees.