Black Inmate Sues Kentucky Prison for Allegedly Forcibly Cutting Hair to Make It 'Searchable,’ Prison Responds

A Black inmate in Kentucky is suing for the prison for forcibly cutting his dreadlocks because they weren't "searchable" when he was being moved from his cell.

A Black inmate at the Northpoint Training Center in Boyle County, Kentucky, is suing the prison for allegedly cutting his dreadlocks without notice because his hair was not “searchable.”

According to Insider, Carlos Thurman and the ACLU of Kentucky filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the prison in May after his locs were cut in April 2021 when he was awoken in the middle of the night to be abruptly moved to a different facility. Thurman, 50, is a practicing Rastafarian and claims the guards did not even attempt to search his hair before ordering to cut it.

“If a white inmate with long hair down his back gets into a fight with a Black inmate with dreads, cornrows or braids, the white inmate will be allowed to keep his hair, [but] the Black inmate will have to get his hair cut,” Thurman wrote in his 2021 grievance. “Where is the fairness?”  

The lawsuit alleges that forcibly cutting Thurman’s hair without giving him any other options is in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act.

“In forcibly cutting his dreadlocked hair without attempting to utilize any of the available less restrictive means to satisfy the prison’s security interest, prison officials violated Mr. Thurman’s rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act,” the lawsuit reads.

Northpoint Training Center responded this week, “arguing the prison’s actions did not involve oppression, fraud or malice,” per WKYT. The facility also cites the 11th Amendment limiting Thurman’s ability to sue the state in federal court.

In a February memo, Northpoint Warden Brad Adam cited that “braids, corn rolls[sic], dreadlocks, etc. are not permitted if they are not searchable,” adding that inmates would receive a “reasonable” amount of time” to be presented with the option to cut it. Thurman claims he only allowed his locs to be cut out of fear of physical punishment from the guards.

Thurman is seeking damages and a policy change over the incident.

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