Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rasta inmates spend 10 years in isolation for hair

Yahoo! News

 

Kendall Ray GibsonJARRATT, Va. – Kendall Gibson would seem to be one of Virginia's most dangerous prisoners.

For more than 10 years he has lived in segregation at the Greensville Correctional Center, spending at least 23 hours every day in a cell the size of a gas station bathroom. In a temporary home for the worst of the worst — inmates too violent or disruptive to live among the rest of society's outcasts — he has been a permanent fixture.

He is there, he says, not for his crimes but for a crime he will not commit — a crime against God.

The only thing imposing about Gibson is his long black dreadlocks, resting on the front of his shoulders so they won't drag the ground as he shuffles along in his orange jumpsuit.

It is his hair — winding locks he considers a measure of his Rastafarian faith — that makes him a threat, according to Virginia Department of Corrections Operating Procedure No. 864.1.

The rule took effect on Dec. 15, 1999. Inmates had two choices: cut their hair no longer than their collars and shave their beards, or be placed in administrative segregation.

In the beginning, Gibson was among as many as 40 inmates who opted for confinement over cutting. By 2003, when a handful of the inmates filed a federal lawsuit against the department over their detention, 23 remained in segregation.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100508/ap_on_re_us/us_rastafarian_segregation

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