Campaign to prevent cutting of a Sikh's hair in Florida, US


A Sikh prisoner, Satnam Singh, is presently incarcerated at a federal prison in Ohio. He will be transferred to a Florida state prison on or after April 9, 2006. Florida prison regulations require male prisoners to cut their hair to a “medium length” and allow prison officials to forcibly cut their hair if they refuse to comply. Urgent action is therefore needed to stop Florida prison officials from forcibly cutting his hair.

Chapter 33-602.101(4) of the Florida Administrative Code states that “[m]ale inmates shall have their hair cut short to medium uniform length at all times….” No similar provision exists for female inmates.

The section also states that “[a]ll inmates shall be clean shaven, provided, however that an exemption from this requirement shall be granted on the basis of a medial diagnonis….” If an inmate refuses to adhere to these grooming standards, even for faith-based reasons, the officer in charge “shall direct staff to shave the inmate or cut the inmate’s hair” according the Chapter 602.101(5).

Maintaining unshorn hair (including facial hair) and wearing a turban are central tenets of the Sikh faith. Sikhs wear an external uniform to unify and bind them to the beliefs of the religion and to remind them of their commitment to Sikh teachings at all times. These articles of faith have deep spiritual significance.

Historically, uncut hair has been the most central feature of the Sikh identity. For example, in the 18 century, when Sikhs in South Asia were persecuted and forced to convert from their religion; the method of forcing conversions was cutting off a Sikh’s hair. As a result, the forcible cutting of the hair is perceived as the most humiliating and hurtful physical injury that can be inflicted upon a Sikh. Everyday during prayers, Sikhs remember those Sikhs who sacrificed their lives rather than giving up their uncut hair and turbans. Mr. Singh’s need to keep his hair unshorn must be understood in this context.

Background

Satnam Singh was convicted in federal court and Florida state court of criminal use of personal identification information, a non-violent offense. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment in Florida and a three year federal sentence. As a result of good behavior, his federal sentence has been reduced by 216 days.

At present, Satnam is housed in a low security federal prison in Youngstown, Ohio. Throughout his stay in federal prison, he has been allowed to maintain his unshorn hair neatly in his turban. He does not have a negative disciplinary record. His Federal Bureau of Prisons Progress Report states that he “approaches staff in a polite and respectful manner” and “has maintained clear conduct since his incarceration.”

Satnam is scheduled to be released to a Florida state prison on or after April 9, 2006 where he will have to be submitted to having his hair cut forcibly if he refuses to voluntarily submit to having his hair cut and beard shaved completely off.

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1 comment:

TeraRoop said...

Is Satnam Singh Jee Amritdhari?