by Michael Doyle
January 20, 2015
The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously struck down an Arkansas prison ban on inmate beards, in a remarkable legal victory for an habitual offender-turned-devout Muslim who started off representing himself.
In an emphatic 9-0 decision, the court’s liberals and conservatives united in concluding the prison’s grooming policy violated the religious rights of the prisoner known both as Gregory Holt and Abdul Maalik Muhammad. He challenged the Arkansas Department of Corrections officials who denied him his request to grow a half-inch beard.
“We do not question the importance of the Department’s interests in stopping the flow of contraband and facilitating prisoner identification,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote, but added that “the Department has failed to show that its policy is the least restrictive means of furthering its compelling interests.”
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