Beards Behind Bars

Mar 10, 2014

Gregory Holt

A Virginia lawyer is on his way to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend the right of a man to grow a beard.  Seven states will be watching that case closely.  

Gregory Holt is serving a life sentence  for burglary and domestic battery in Arkansas – one of seven states that bar prisoners from growing a beard.  His lawyer says that’s a problem, because Holt is a Muslim.

Douglas Laycock, a professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Virginia.  He says Holt got all the way to the Supreme Court without the help of a lawyer:

But now he needs a professional, and this will be Laycock’s fifth time before the high court.  He’ll argue that federal law protects his client’s religious freedom.

Virginia and five other states also require prisoners to shave – claiming chin whiskers can be used to transport contraband, but Laycock will point to 43 states, the District of Columbia and the federal prison system where beards are permitted behind bars.