Citing inconsistent practices, especially in California’s county jails, a new bill introduced in the California State Senate would mandate clear guidelines to allow religious clothing, headwear and grooming practices that are banned in some locales.
Advocates of the bill say inmates have a right to express their religious beliefs and can do so in ways that don’t interfere with security and safe operations of state prisons and county jails.
Religion News Service quoted Rami Nsour, an advocate for the imprisoned, as saying he often sees different rules as his clients are transferred from one facility to another.
“Protecting prisoners’ freedom of religion should not be seen as coddling the inmates,” Nsour said in the article. State Sen. Dave Cortese, D-San Jose, said he introduced the bill to “stop incidents of religious persecution in prison.”
A fact sheet distributed at a news conference also claimed that state corrections officials don’t meet the heightened protections offered by federal law. Cortese, who was joined by leaders of multiple faiths, said there will be a positive ripple effect to the general public, because allowing inmates to freely exercise their faith makes them less likely to return to prison or be involved in violent incidents while imprisoned.
Examples cited include Muslim women forced to remove hijabs, the traditional Islamic headscarves, and Sikh prisoners who couldn’t wear their turbans.
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