RASTAFARIAN HOLY days and festival dates are now recognised among annual religious days across Prison services.
The inclusion of the dates - and recognition of Rastafarianism as a religion in the National Offender Management System (NOMS) - follows investigation of complaints from a Rastafarian inmate, referred to as Mr. A, and recommendations from the Prisons & Probation Ombudsman’s Office (PPO).
This new information was included in the PPO’s February 2013 Learning Lessons Bulletin.
The PPO said: “Mr. A’s complaint was of the most fundamental kind. He complained that he had been told that the Prison Service did not recognise Rastafarianism as a religion.
“When we investigated, it became clear that the Prison
Service was relying on outdated policy that had been superseded by the Equality Act 2010.
PRISONS: They now recognise Rastafarian Holy Days and festivals
“This sets out nine protected characteristics, one of which is “religion or belief”. Home Office guidance on the Act cited Rastafarianism as a religion.
“We were satisfied that the relevant NOMS policy group was aware that it needed to bring out new instructions and that this was in hand but we were concerned that in the interim, prisons might be leaving themselves open to action to enforce compliance, including judicial review.
The PPO added: “We recommended that NOMS headquarters issued guidance to all Governors reminding them of the need to comply with the provisions of the Equality Act.
“Since issuing this report, NOMS has included Rastafarian festival dates in its annual Religious Festival Dates instruction for the first time.”
SOME RASTAFARIAN FESTIVAL DATES
Ethiopian Christmas (January 7)
Rastas hail black people as the Jews in the Bible. Christianity has been in Ethiopia since 330 AD.
CELEBRATED: Ethiopian Christmas
Groundation Day (April 21)
On this day, Haile Selassie I, who some Rastas see as the reincarnated Jesus, visited Jamaica in 1966.
GREETED: Haile Selassie I in Jamaica in 1966.
Emperor Haile Selassie I was born on this day in 1892.
Nyabingi sessions are held to honour the date.
Marcus Garvey's Birthday (August 17)
Celebrates Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey’s birth in 1887. The international Pan-Africanist, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and Jamaican national hero created the 'Back to Africa' movement.
PAN-AFRICAN LEGEND: Marcus Garvey.
The start of the New Year in Ethiopia is recognised because Rastafarians believe Ethiopia to be their spiritual homeland, and a place to which they want to return.