Black man forced to cut locks in prison, establishment sues

According to a prison guard, black hairstyles such as highlights, braids and cornrows are not easily searchable.

A black Kentucky man has filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court against a state prison, claiming his constitutional rights and religious freedoms were violated when the facility forcibly cut his locks under a new prison policy .

According to American Civil Liberties UnionCarlos Thurman, 50, is a practicing Rastafarian who was coerced by Northpoint Training Center prison authorities to cut his hair – a hairstyle commonly worn by those who practice the religion as a symbol of devotion to their Creator.

The ACLU of Kentucky said it filed a federal lawsuit on Thurman’s behalf on April 29, claiming the prison’s 2021 policy — which, by USA todayrequired inmates to have “searchable hair” if transferred to another facility, placed in solitary confinement or appearing in court – is unconstitutional.

According to the outlet, the memo, posted by director Brad Adams, included locks, braids and cornrows among hairstyles deemed hard to find.

According to the ACLU of Kentucky, Thurman was moved to another correctional facility after filing a grievance against the rule. The state union says Thurman’s hair was never searched, but he was forced to cut his locks during the process, further claiming that his cut hair was later returned to him in a bag.

The ACLU of Kentucky says the memo violates the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects religious congregations and people practicing religious faith from restrictions that unfairly impede their ability to practice freely. their religion.

The lawsuit further alleged that the memo violated Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Thurman’s right to file a First Amendment grievance, according to the ACLU of Kentucky.

“Prison policies cannot violate sincere religious beliefs unless it can be shown to be the least restrictive means possible,” said Corey Shapiro, chief legal officer of the ACLU of Kentucky. “Mr. Thurman should never have been subjected to such retaliatory and degrading actions.

In March, the United States House of Representatives passed the CROWN Act to provide federal protection against racial discrimination of black hairstyles like braids, cornrows, and locks in federal assistance programs, housing programs, public housing and employment, as previously reported by leGrio.

One of the bill’s creators, Adjoa B. Asamoah, said leGrioof April Ryan that “The CROWN Act modifies the existing definition of race to include traits historically associated with it; like hair texture and what we call protective styles including but not limited to braids, locs, twists, bantu knots, etc.

Asamoah said that in the absence of law, “courts have interpreted race [that] didn’t include our hair because the idea is that if we can modify our hair, then it’s something that’s not inherently part of our racial identity.

The law failed to pass the US Senate after it was introduced in 2019 by California State Senator Holly Mitchell and then passed the US House.

Gerren Keith Gaynor and April Ryan of theGrio contributed to this report.

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