Appeals Court Decides Texas Prison Should Allow Beard and Skullcap for Muslim Inmates
May 06, 2016 01:16 AM EDT
A ruling by a judge panel in New Orleans has upheld the previous ruling that Muslim inmates in Texas prison should be allowed to express their faith by growing beard and wear knit skullcap. The unanimous ruling was done by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
The request to grow beard and wear knit skullcap, called a kufi, first came from an inmate named David Rasheed Ali. He is a Muslim inmate at state's Michael Unit in East Texas near Palestine, as reported by ABC News. He was arrested for arson, criminal mischief and aggravated robbery, and is serving four concurrent 20-year prison sentences for those crimes.
Previously, the Texas prison officials had prohibit and ban the use of caps and the growing of beards. The officials claimed that beards and caps should be banned for security reasons. They argued that both beards and caps could facilitate smuggling. They could also make it harder for officials to identify inmates as it may cover some important distinctive features.
According to Statesman, the prison policy required all inmates to be clean shaven. Although, the prison allows those with skin conditions to grow a short beard of a quarter inch. Ali, however, demanded that he allowed to grow a 4-inch beard as part of a religious practice.
Appeals Judge Edward Prado wrote an opinion saying that the Texas officials' decision to ban 4-inch beards and religious headwear violates a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in an Arkansas inmate's case. He also claimed that the experts called by Texas to support its argument on security were not credible.
In regard to the Arkansas case referred to by Prado, the Supreme Court had already ruled that a Muslim inmate could have a half-inch beard because it could not danger security. Currently, the prison only allow Ali to wear his headwear only on his cell and on religious services.
The Texas prison has responded to the appeal, saying that they are reviewing the opinion, as quoted by Fox News. The prison's spokesman Jason Clark also stated that they have no further comment at this time.
A judge panel has decided to upheld a lower-court ruling that Muslim inmates in Texas prison should be allowed to grow beards and wear religious headwear as a religious practice. Previously, Texas prison officials has prohibited Ali, a Muslim inmate, to grow a beard and wear a knit skullcap.