February 28, 2014
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether prison officials in Arkansas may prohibit inmates from growing beards in accordance with their religious beliefs.
The policy was challenged by Gregory H. Holt, who is serving a life sentence for burglary and domestic battery. Mr. Holt said his Muslim faith required him to grow a beard.
The state’s policy allows trimmed mustaches, along with quarter-inch beards for those with dermatological problems. Prison officials said the ban on other facial hair was needed to promote “health and hygiene,” to minimize “opportunities for disguise” and to help prevent the concealment of contraband.
Mr. Holt sued under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a federal law that requires prison officials to show that policies that burden religious practices advance a compelling penological interest and use the least restrictive means to do so. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in St. Louis, ruled in June that the justifications offered by the officials satisfied that standard.
Mr. Holt filed a handwritten petition in September asking the justices to hear his case, Holt v. Hobbs, No. 13-6827, pointing out that other courts had struck down policies banning beards in prisons. In an interim order in November, the Supreme Court ordered that Mr. Holt be allowed to grow a half-inch beard.
NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/us/supreme-court-agrees-to-weigh-arkansas-inmates-right-to-grow-a-beard.html?action=click&module=Search®ion=searchResults%230&version=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry714%23%2Fmuslim%2F30days%2Fallresults%2F1%2Fallauthors%2Fnewest%2F&_r=0