Beard ban for Orthodox Jewish inmate

By Jennifer Lipman, September 2, 2010

An Orthodox Jewish prisoner in New Hampshire has been banned from growing his beard longer than a quarter of an inch, despite claiming that it is his religious right to do so.

Albert Kuperman, 25, had argued that New Hampshire State Prison’s grooming policy went against his constitutional right to freedom of religion.

But a federal judge ruled that the First Amendment did not extend to facial hair.

Judge Steven McAuliffe said that the prison’s hygiene and security policy came first.

He noted: “That length allows correctional officers to identify inmates easily, prevents inmates from hiding contraband and weapons in beards and minimises the risk that an escaped inmate could quickly change his appearance after an escape.”

Judge McAuliffe added: “A grooming policy that allowed full beards, on the other hand, would strain prison resources and relations between inmates and staff by requiring more frequent inmate searches.”

Mr Kuperman, who was sentenced to up to seven years for sexually molesting a minor, lost a legal case to keep his kosher meals in 2009.

The prison had removed the privilege after he was spotted eating non-kosher food on more than one occasion.

Last updated: 10:56am, September 2 2010