The Wild Hunt: An Infamous Murder and Asatru in Prison
CBS 4 Denver: Clements' Murder Suspect Practiced Controversial Religion in Prison
The murder of Colorado Department of Corrections chief Tom Clements was a disturbing and tragic event. The fact that the murder suspect, Evan Ebel, associates himself with the Asatru religion is an outrage to the Asatru and wider Heathen communities. Although Ebel’s culpability remains to be determined by a jury of his peers in a fair trial, the racism and radicalization of inmates in the prison systems is a topic of conversation and of action within the Heathen community.
Various forms of Heathenry, including Asatru, are growing rapidly in virtually all prison systems in the United States. In many situations, the only exposure that inmates have to any of the Heathen paths consists of materials tinged with racism and white supremacy. These destructive materials are passed from inmate to inmate and are used as tools by those with a racist agenda to foster a false sense of security based on little more than the color of one’s skin. These materials do not reflect the opinions, the practices, or the daily reality for the vast majority of those who self-identify as Heathen outside of the prison system. Thus, the inmates are being led into circumstances and practices that are antithetical to historical and current Heathenry.
Whether inmates have access to positive Heathen influences is part of an overarching issue that has an impact on the whole of the Heathen community. In many cases, the perception of Heathenry by the American public is defined by the radical racist elements from the prison population, which leads to a widespread misunderstanding of what Heathenry is and who Heathens are. When these radicalized inmates are released into the general population, the history of their experience and influence will become an even bigger problem for us than it is now. The Troth is proactively undertaking efforts to thwart the racist agenda by increasing the availability of Heathen materials with positive, non-racist messages through the creation of a Heathen prison services program called In-Reach.
Quite a number of Stewards and members of The Troth have been involved in visitation services to prisons for many years. In December of 2011, the first pilot program that would lead to In-Reach began in a New Jersey correctional facility as a joint effort of the New Jersey Troth Steward and the Pennsylvania-based Distelfink Sippschaft. The pilot program has since expanded to two facilities and is preparing to add a third.
In June 2012 at Trothmoot, The Troth's High Rede began discussions about the need for a Heathen Prison Services program. The Rede took the pilot program's experiences into consideration and decided to proceed with the creation of a program proposal. The goal was to have the program created prior to Trothmoot 2013. The program was renamed In-Reach and the proposal was accepted and approved by the Rede on April 17, 2013.
Part of The Troth's Mission Statement is to welcome all people, whatever their religious, cultural, or ancestral background, gender or sexual orientation, who have developed or wish to develop a relationship with our Gods and Goddesses, and would like to know more about Asatru (and thus implying other Heathen paths). It is, therefore, consistent with our Mission to increase the presence of Troth materials and to facilitate and to monitor volunteer visitation in correctional facilities throughout the country.
As an international Heathen organization, The Troth is uniquely situated to provide these services, to train and to vet volunteers, and to stand before the media and the prison administrators as a representative voice of Heathenry. The purpose of this program is to educate the inmates and facility administrators about Heathenry and to aid the administrators in the provision of Heathen services, including ceremonies. Additionally, this program will counteract misinterpretations about Heathenry and conduct outreach to the administrators, including Chaplains.
The Troth takes the issue of racist radicalization very seriously. The In-Reach program is a major component in our effort to stand for the true values of our religion. We will continue to investigate other options for carrying out our Mission and for building relationships with other institutions and organizations that share our goals for a peaceful and stable society.