(New York, New York) April 1, 2006 - The Sikh Coalition is requesting urgent action to ensure a Sikh prisoner does not have his hair forcibly cut.
“I have never cut my hair in my life. For me, as a Sikh, the possibility of having my hair cut is like facing the death penalty"
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Please Take 1 Minute to Sign Our Online Petition and Ask Other People to Do So – Every time 100 people sign it, the Governor receives a notification that another 100 people have signed the petition;
Please E-mail Your Own Personal Message to the Governor and Department of Corrections – Personal messages make a difference!
Please copy email@example.com on the e-mail so that we have a record of how many personal messages Florida officials receive.
Timeline of Events
- Friday, March 24 - The Sikh Coalition receives a 35 page packet of information from Satnam Singh explaining that he will be transferred to a Florida state prison and that he is fearful his hair will be forcibly cut. The Coalition’s Legal Director reviews the packet and determines that Satnam Singh legitimately is in danger of having his hair forcibly cut.
- Monday, March 27 - The Coalition writes to the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and his General Counsel arguing that cutting Satnam Singh’s hair would violate the law.
- Monday, March 27 - The Coalition engages local Florida attorney and Treasurer of the Sikh Society of Florida, Arvind Singh, to rally local community support behind Satnam Singh and attempt to find him pro bono legal assistance.
- Tuesday, March 28 - Arvind Singh contacts local civil rights organizations, such as the ACLU, Aleph Institute, Council on American Islamic Relations, and Florida Sikh activists to support Satnam Singh
- Tuesday, March 28 - Coalition faxes a formal letter to Governor Jeb Bush, requesting he intervene in this matter
- Wednesday, March 29 - The Coalition’s Legal Director speaks to attorneys from the Aleph Institute and the ACLU of Florida to request their assistance.
- Wednesday, March 29 - The Coalition puts together an online petition that will e-mail the Governor and the Department of Corrections every 100 times it is signed. Coalition requests Sikh organizations all over the world to join effort
- Thursday, March 30 - Over 100 Sikh and non-Sikh organizations around the world respond to Coalition’s request to sign petition to Governor Bush of Florida.
- Thursday, March 30 - The Aleph Institute agrees to formally provide assistance on this matter.
The prisoner, Satnam Singh, is presently incarcerated at a federal prison in Ohio. He will be transferred to a Florida state prison on or after April 9, 2006. Florida prison regulations require male prisoners to cut their hair to a “medium length” and allow prison officials to forcibly cut their hair if they refuse to comply. Urgent action is therefore needed to stop Florida prison officials from forcibly cutting his hair.
Satnam Singh was convicted in federal court and Florida state court of criminal use of personal identification information, a non-violent offense. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment in Florida and a three year federal sentence. As a result of good behavior, his federal sentence has been reduced by 216 days.
At present, Satnam is housed in a low security federal prison in Youngstown, Ohio. Throughout his stay in federal prison, he has been allowed to maintain his unshorn hair neatly in his turban. He does not have a negative disciplinary record. His Federal Bureau of Prisons Progress Report states that he “approaches staff in a polite and respectful manner” and “has maintained clear conduct since his incarceration.”
Satnam is scheduled to be released to a Florida state prison on or after April 9, 2006 where he will have to be submitted to having his hair cut forcibly if he refuses to voluntarily submit to having his hair cut and beard shaved completely off.
Florida’s Prison Regulations and Federal Court Decision Allow Prisons to Forcibly Cut an Inmate’s Hair
Florida state prison regulations, unlike the regulations of other states, requires prisoners to cut their hair and allows prison officials to forcibly cut their hair if they refuse to do so. Chapter 33-602.101(4) of the Florida Administrative Code states that “[m]ale inmates shall have their hair cut short to medium uniform length at all times….” The section also states that “[a]ll inmates shall be clean shaven, provided, however that an exemption from this requirement shall be granted on the basis of a medial diagnosis….” If an inmate refuses to adhere to these grooming standards, even for faith-based reasons, the officer in charge “shall direct staff to shave the inmate or cut the inmate’s hair” according the Chapter 602.101(5).
In addition, in Brunskill v. Boyd, a case decided in May 2005, the federal court of appeals for the 11 th Circuit, held that a Florida prison could forcibly cut a Native American’s hair even if he refused to do so for religious reasons. The court held that his hair could be cut despite the protections granted by the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) which provides the highest legal standard or protection for the religious rights of prison inmates.
Time is of the Essence
In less than ten days from now Satnam’s beard could be forcibly shaved and his hair cut. We need your help now! Please take action immediately by signing our online petition and writing to the Governor of Florida and the Secretary of the Department of Corrections. Please be sure to copy firstname.lastname@example.org on any correspondence.
We urge all Sikhs to practice their faith fearlessly. If someone tells you to remove your articles of faith, please report the incident online at Reports.
Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh!