ACLU of Virginia Asks Prison to Rescind Racially Discriminatory Hairstyle Policy

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
May 25, 2007 12:00 am

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Says Policy Targets African-American Employees

HAYNESVILLE, VA – The ACLU of Virginia today asked the warden at Haynesville Correctional Center in Richmond County to immediately rescind a recently implemented hair policy that appears to discriminate against African-American employees.

According to news reports, the warden has suspended or threatened with suspension two female employees, one who wears short dreadlocks pulled neatly into a bun and another who wears cornrows.

“From photographs, it appears that both women are in full compliance with Department of Corrections’ hair policy,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “The only problem is that the hairstyles they have chosen are worn predominately by African-Americans.”

In his letter to Haynesville Warden Daniel T. Mahon, Willis points out that the ACLU of Virginia recently filed a federal lawsuit against a nightclub in Virginia Beach over a policy that prevents patrons from wearing braids, twists, cornrows, or dreadlocks. The ACLU lawsuit charges that the policy discriminates on the basis of race because it targets hairstyles predominately worn by African-Americans.

“Prison officials clearly have broad authority to determine the appearance of prison employees,” said Willis, “but they cannot create rules that discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.”

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the matter has been brought to the attention of Governor Tim Kaine by NAACP officials, who met with him yesterday. If the policy is not changed, lawyers for the ACLU of Virginia plan to interview the individuals affected and determine if legal action is appropriate.

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