ACLU Supports Native American Inmate Who Refuses to Cut Hair

March 31, 2004

Source: American Civil Liberties Union

On March 31, 2004 the American Civil Liberties Union issued a press release that stated, "he American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California today filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Native American inmate who has faced serious disciplinary sanctions -- including the loss of all visitation rights -- for his refusal to comply with a California Department of Corrections grooming policy requiring all male inmates to maintain hair no longer than three inches in length. Billy Soza Warsoldier is a Cahuilla Native American whose religious beliefs prohibit him from cutting his hair except upon the death of a loved one. 'Punishing Warsoldier for practicing his religion is both unnecessary and illegal,' said Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. 'A prison inmate shouldn't have to choose between remaining faithful to his religion and maintaining contact with his children and grandchildren.' Warsoldier is currently incarcerated at the Adelanto Community Correctional Facility. Both the Cahuilla tribe and the federal government have recognized his status as a Cahuilla. According to Warsoldier's faith, his long hair embodies the strength and wisdom he has acquired over his lifetime, and he would lose that strength and wisdom, and jeopardize his status in the afterlife, if he were to cut it. Therefore, since 1971, Warsoldier has cut his hair only once, upon his father's death in 1980."