Imprisoned Sikh Secures Religious Freedom in Vermont

March 7, 2008


Source: India New England

The Vermont Department of Corrections recently altered a controversial policy regarding prisoner religious observances in response to protests from a Sikh inmate and civil rights organizations.

Satnam Singh, an inmate from Florida currently held in Vermont, alerted several organizations of his concerns with the prison’s policy last year.

Speaking by telephone from the Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton, Vt., Singh said he was concerned because the old directive included no turban inspection standards or rules related to prisoners with long hair, noting that his hair had not been cut “since the day I was born.” The directive also would have required turbans to be removed inside the prison’s visitor room, a situation that Singh said would “be like being naked.”

The revised policy allows Sikh prisoners to maintain long hair and wear turbans at all times, although the garments are subject to random searches, provided that guards conduct the searches in private and wear gloves to protect the sanctity of the turban.