The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 50-year-old Carlos Thurman, who claims officials chopped off his locks following the introduction of a new policy back in 2021. Under these new rules, inmates are required to have "searchable hair" while being transferred to a facility, being placed in solitary confinement, or appearing in court.
Hairstyles like dreadlocks, cornrows, and braids, must be "forcibly removed," according to a memo issued by Warden Brad Adams and obtained by reporters. This prompted Thurman to submit a complaint to Northpoint Training Center, where he was being housed at the time.
Instead of listening to his concerns, the ACLU of Kentucky alleges the 50-year-old inmate was transferred to another facility in retaliation. When Thurman arrived at another prison, officials didn't even search his hair before cutting off his dreadlocks, the lawsuit alleges. The report also claims prison staff sent Thurman's chopped-off hair to him packed in a bag.
The lawsuit claims Thurman's rights under the First and Fourth amendments, which grant protections to incarcerated people, were violated by the policy. The ACLU of Kentucky also alleges the memo goes against other federal and state laws, such as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and Kentucky's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“Prison policies may not infringe on sincerely-held religious beliefs unless it can be shown that it’s the least restrictive means possible,” ACLU of Kentucky Legal Director Corey Shapiro said in a statement. “Mr. Thurman should never have been subjected to such retaliatory and degrading actions.”
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