A Rastafarian inmate has filed a federal lawsuit against the South Carolina prisons department, citing what he considers a series of violations of his constitutional right to practice his religion.
In a handwritten court filing, inmate James Rose accused the state’s prison system of denying his right to wear his hair in dreadlocks and use cannabis in accordance with his religious practice.
According to his lawsuit, Rose asked prison officials to give him marijuana in 2017. Then, Rose alleges that prison guards retaliated by holding him down and forcibly shaving his dreadlocks.
Rose seeks $1 million in punitive and actual damages. “The injuries I’ve sustained related to the events were migraine headaches, psychological trauma, mental anguish (depression), panic attacks, and nightmares,” he said.
“I grew dreadlocks as a part of my Rastafarian religion and asked to be accommodated with marijuana as part of my religion and practice,” he said, when guards “used excessive force to maliciously and sadistically cause harm.”
While Rose’s petition is likely to be denied, he has time on his side, and lots of it. The inmate is serving a life sentence for what the Associated Press calls his involvement in “the execution-style murder of the son of a town council member in Lincolnville.” Yikes.
While similar requests by Rastafarians have been dismissed in the past, High Times notes that earlier this year a prisoner in Ohio won a ruling in federal court to allow him to wear dreadlocks in prison. Part of his convincing argument came from his citation of the Bible, the Book of Leviticus, which says, “They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.”Photo via Flickr user meesh