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Saturday, February 26, 2011

If Buju is Forced to Cut His Locks Wouldn't That be Religious Discrimination?

Since the guilty verdicts in Buju Banton's case on Tuesday; despite the fact that his sentence has not been handed down and his lawyer pledging to appeal the verdicts a lot of people and media outlets are already speculating that Buju may have to cut his dreads should he have to serve time in a federal prison.

The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment has been held to apply to prison inmates. Prisoners are therefore protected against unequal treatment on the basis of race, sex, and creed. Additionally, the Model Sentencing and Corrections Act provides that a confined person has a protected interest in freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex. Therefore, why would Buju Banton who is a known Rastafarian be exempt from maintaining an identity that is expected of his Religious beliefs? A belief that though some may view growing their hair as optional, most Rastafarians see it as demanded by the Nazarite Vow in the Bible (Numbers 6:5), "There shall no razor come upon his head."

Worst case scenario could be that his locks may be deemed a security risk or is against the prison's grooming policy, as it was the case with Kendall Gibsonone of Virginia's most dangerous prisoners. However he was never forced to cut his locks he was instead given the option of administrative segregation then later returned to regular population still as a Rastafarian with his locks intact. Currently Sukhjinder (sook-JIN'-der) Basra, a Sikh has filed a lawsuit against a California prison for what he deemed unfair punishment for refusing to cut his beard which forms part of his religious belief. Though it may be the grooming policy of some prisons, an inmate has the right to uphold creeds and identities that form part of their religious belief. 

Rapper Lil Wayne though has never even professed that he is a Rastafarian or his dreads is a part of his religious belief, has served time without losing an inch of his dreads or even being asked to. We hope the same respect and option is available to Buju should he have to serve time in a Federal Prison.


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