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Court rejects lawsuit challenging prison beard policy

NEW YORK (JTA) — A federal appeals court upheld the legality of a New Hampshire prison policy limiting the length of prisoners’ beard.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled July 14 against an Orthodox Jewish former inmate who had challenged the policy.

The New Hampshire state prison system requires inmates to be clean shaven unless they obtain a waiver to maintain beards for religious or medical reasons. Prisoners who receive a waiver are allowed to grow only a quarter-inch of facial hair.

Albert Kuperman, an Orthodox Jew who had been a prisoner in a New Hampshire state prison, had filed a lawsuit challenging the policy limiting his beard’s length. He argued that the policy violated his rights to practice his religion under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

The court said that prison officials had demonstrated that their policy on facial hair is related to their legitimate interest in maintaining security.

A federal district also had ruled against Kuperman, who completed his sentence while his appeal was pending.

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