While one in four Americans changes their hairstyle in order to reinvent themselves, there are people here in the United States who are not even given the option.
The U.S. Supreme Court has recently denied to hear the appeal of many Native Americans in Alabama, who would like the right to wear their hair long while imprisoned.
In Native American culture, males choose to wear their hair long. For many men, they follow cultural tradition and only cut their hair when mourning the death of a close relative.
But when they enter Alabama’s public jail system, they must abide by the rule that hair must be cut off the ears and neck.
For many, they believe this violates their religious liberty. Their first court case on the issue against Alabama was in 1993, but in August of 2015 the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against them.
The Alabama Department of Corrections argued that long hair in jail poses many security and hygiene risks. Prisoners in the past have used long hair to conceal and smuggle contraband and weapons, and if the prisoner escaped their long hair could be used as a way to change their appearance.
And with the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to hear their argument, the decision stands in favor of the Alabama Department of Corrections.
According to the Native American Rights Fund, many state prisons allow Native Americans to wear their hair long as a religious exemption. There are only 10 prison systems that ban long hair: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
As reported in The Atlantic, the inmates’ lawyer believes this ruling goes against Native American civil liberties as a whole. He tells the Associated Press, “Their sacred and ancestral core religious traditions are at stake.”
The Supreme Court did order the Eleventh Circuit Court to reconsider its 2015 decision, but they cannot force them to re-appeal their ruling.