October 31, 2008 / 2:26 PM / 10 years ago

Wands and robes: Paganism takes root in UK prisons

LONDON (Reuters) - The number of prisoners who describe themselves as pagan has more than doubled in England and Wales since 2003, according to new government figures.

According to prison service guidelines, pagan prisoners are permitted to keep artifacts, including a hoodless robe and a flexible twig for use as a wand, among their personal possessions. Naked worship, known as skyclad, is not allowed.

The figures showed that 328 inmates listed themselves as pagan in 2007, up from 133 four years ago. There are around 80,000 prisoners in Britain’s jails.

The figures were released ahead of Hallowe’en, a festival on which pagan prisoners will be allowed to choose not to work or attend education. Inmates are allowed to select two dates from a list of eight annual festivals when they are excused from work.

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