The CDCR Enforces Policy Requiring Shaving by Officers Despite Religious or Health Reasons Not to Do So

Photo: Prison Report

By Kevin Barragan

SACRAMENTO, CA – Earlier this month, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation began enforcing a policy requiring officers to shave—despite religious or health reasons not to do so—and the ACLU Foundation and Sith Coalition released a statement opposing the policy.

The groups said they have “grave concerns regarding the categorical application of this policy and the disproportionate impact that it has on Black and Brown CDCR peace officers—specifically Black men who are far more likely to suffer Pseudofolliculitis Barbae.”

An ACLU official said the policy may result in discriminatory actions against Black communities and Black CDCR peace officers. Both organizations, Sikh Coalition and the ACLU, urged a stop to the policy enactment.

“In the week since the policy went into full effect, both organizations have received requests for legal help from Black and Sikh individuals working at CDCR facilities across the state who have been negatively impacted by this policy,” said the ACLU.

“This policy has created numerous fear and confusion for Sikh CDCR peace officers who previously held religious accommodations are no longer valid. It now seemingly forces them to either comply with the shaving requirement under extreme duress or risk their employment,” declared Harsimaran Kuar, Sikh Coalition Senior Legal Counsel.

Kaur continued, “The discriminatory policy change is not only untenable for Sikh peace officers; its effect is enormous because it adversely impacts every peace officer who requires a religious or medical board accommodation.”

The California Department of Human Resources has reported, “About 2,000 of CDCR’s approximately 41,000 employees are Black men.”

Though the number of Sikh CDCR peace officers is unknown, opposition groups suggest there’s a major probability that Sikh peace officers are in danger of having to choose between their health or job.

Director of Racial and Economic Justice Program at the ACLU of Northern California, Brandon Greene, said, “The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation new Policy prohibiting full beards unfairly penalizes Black officers who are much more likely than their white coworkers to suffer from a painful skin condition by shaving.”

About The Author

Kevin Barragan is a first-generation senior at California State University, Los Angeles majoring in political science with an emphasis in prelegal studies and minoring in criminal justice. He plans to attend law school after undergrad in hopes to pursue a law career in advocating for social and civil rights.

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