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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sikh Prisoners in California Ordered to Remove Turbans and Cut Hair

State prison officials in California have restricted the ability of Sikh prisoners to wear dastaars and maintain long hair. Two California prisons, Solano State Prison and San Quentin State Prison, have disallowed its Sikh prisoners from wearing any head covering, including a dastaar. The prisons have also punished the Sikh prisoners for refusing to comply with orders to cut their hair.

California Code of Regulations § 3062(e), which governs prison inmate grooming standards, states that a “male inmate's hair shall not be longer than three inches and shall not extend over the eyebrows or below the top of the shirt collar while standing upright.” The rule contains no exemptions for religious reasons. While the regulation says that prison officials may not use any force to ensure compliance with its grooming standards, officials may punish inmates who refuse to comply. In this case the Sikh inmates have lost recreation time, phone call rights, and have lost credits that would reduce their time in prison.

In addition to punishing Sikhs for refusing to cut their hair, prison officials have also refused to allow Sikh prisoners to wear turbans or any head covering. Nevertheless, Jewish and Muslim prisoners are allowed to wear their respective religious headdress according to the Sikh prisoners...

The Sikh Coalition has written to prison officials in California requesting that they immediately allow the Sikh prisoners to wear their dastaars and not be punished for refusing to cut their hair. The Coalition’s Legal Director will be traveling to California in the coming month to meet with prison officials and other state officials in order to persuade them to allow the Sikh prisoners to practice their faith. If the prison fails to heed the prisoners’ requests, the Coalition is prepared to take appropriate legal action.

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News.

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