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Eric Schultz

"On Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, the second day of the Supreme Court’s 2014 term, the justices heard oral arguments in the case of Holt v. Hobbs, with important implications for corrections. At question in the case was whether or not the Arkansas Department of Correction’s (ADC) no-beard policy violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and whether the half-inch beard requested by inmate Gregory Houston Holt sufficiently satisfies the department’s security goals" (p. 64). Sections of this feature article cover: establishing the precedent for Holt's case--"Of the 44 states that allow inmates to grow at least a half-inch beard, 42 actually have no restrictions on facial hair length whatsoever" (p. 65); Holt's attorneys build a case; ADC's defense of the "No Beard" policy; oral arguments of Holt v. Hobbs; and ruling. "The court released its opinion on Jan. 20, 2015 and held that ADC’s grooming policy did, in fact, violate RLUIPA. ADC, it said, failed to show a “compelling interest” in preventing inmates from hiding contraband or disguising their identities. The court further stated that ADC failed to meet the “least restrictive means” standard, and security concerns could be satisfied by other means. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion of the court, which ruled unanimously, and overturned the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in favor of Holt. In short, the court held that RLUIPA and RFRA were passed by Congress "in order to provide very broad protection for religious liberty'" (p. 67).

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