Some of Virginia’s inmates are suffering for their beliefs, and their hairstyles.
An estimated 48 inmates in Virginia are being placed in isolation because the length of their hair or beards does not comply with state regulations. At least 14 of these inmates are Rastafarians who believe their dreadlocks are a sign of their commitment to their religion. Others in isolation are believed to be Jewish, Muslim and Native American, and they also may be refusing to trim their locks for religious reasons.
Prison officials say the rules are necessary to make sure that prisoners cannot hide contraband or weapons in their hair, but Virginia is one of only about a dozen states that requires it inmates to cut their hair to a certain length.
One inmate, Rastafarian Kendall Gibson, talked to the Associated Press and said he had been isolated from the general prison population for more than 10 years simply because of his dreadlocks and beard.
“People always ask me how I can smile in a place so negative,” Gibson said. “Jah is my answer. Without Jah I wouldn’t be able to handle it.”