Judge sides with Virginia prison system in lawsuit by Muslim inmate who wanted 1/8-inch beard

Court sides with Va. in not allowing Muslim inmate’s beard. Virginia’s prison system did not violate a Muslim inmate’s religious rights when it refused to allow him to grow a 1/8-inch beard, which he believes is required by his religion, a federal judge has ruled.

William Couch, a 50-year-old Sunni Muslim, is a medium-security prisoner serving multiple life sentences for rape and other convictions. He challenged the Virginia Department of Corrections’ grooming policy, which bans long hair and beards.

Virginia is among only about a dozen states that limit the length of inmates’ hair and beards, according to the American Correctional Chaplains Association. A handful of those allow religious accommodations for Rastafarians, Muslims, Sikhs, native Americans and others whose religious beliefs prohibit shaving or cutting their hair.

There is no hair policy for federal prisoners.