Court: Beard Ban Not Discriminatory Against Orthodox Jews
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Arizona’s ban on prisoners wearing beards does not discriminate against Orthodox Jews, a federal appeals court ruled.
In a 3-0 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday the December 1988 grooming policy of the Arizona Department of Corrections was a legitimate means of ″aiding rapid and accurate identification.″
The policy allowed mustaches but prohibited beards except for medical reasons. It was challenged by two prisoners, Kenneth Andrew Friedman and Arnold Naftiel, who said their religious beliefs prohibited them from shaving their beards.
U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield ruled in the state’s favor and was upheld by the appeals court. The court cited testimony by J.C. Kenney, then supervisor of Arizona’s prisons, that the no-beard policy helped identify prisoners in riots and escapes, as well as day-to-day activities that required identification.
The appeals court said Kenney’s testimony established that the policy served ″legitimate penological interests,″ which would be harmed if the prisoners’ rights were protected. That is the standard the state must meet to justify taking away prisoners’ constitutional rights, under a 1987 Supreme Court ruling.
The opinion by Judge Thomas Tang said the high court allows prison officials to anticipate security problems, rather than having to justify their policies with evidence from past incidents.
Tang also said Friedman and Naftiel had testified that they could practice their religion in other ways. For example, the prison provided them with at least one kosher TV dinner a day.
Friedman, 32, is serving a 15-year sentence for sexual assault. Naftiel, 36, is serving 25 years for assault and kidnapping.