Native America Prisoners Win Lawsuit Against Texas

Barbara Schwarz
March 20, 2019 - 8:14 am
Prison Cell

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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - Three Native American Texas inmates have won the right to grow their hair long. 

They claimed, and U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi agreed, that having their hair cut short to prison standards violated their deeply held spiritual and religious beliefs. 

The state argued men are more likely to smuggle dangerous contraband, like shanks, in their hair then even the most dangerous female inmates, who are allowed to grow their hair as long as they want.  

The inmates attorney Steven Messer says "it just became very clear that this policy had nothing to do with safety.  The reason they let women do it and not men was just promoting cultural norms."

The state also claimed inmates with long hair could be more easily harmed in a fight, or the hair could aid in a suicide attempt.  Messer says the judge basically said "you could have done this another way.  You could have allowed inmates to grow long hair, and if they abuse that privilege, take it away, which we think is a reasonable policy."

Messer says there's no governmental interest promoted by restricting hair length. 

Texas is one of eight states that do not allow male inmates to grow their hair long.  The state is considering an appeal.