'It Connects Us': Native Americans Win Lawsuit to Grow Long Hair in Prison

March 20, 2019 AT 7:15 AM

By Associated Press

Three male Native American inmates in Texas will be allowed to grow their hair long as an expression of their religious beliefs after winning a lawsuit against the state prison system.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos' ruling last month only affects the three inmates at the McConnell Unit near Beeville, but their arguments could apply to future lawsuits involving any of the more than 5,000 Native American prisoners in the state, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Texas is considering an appeal, according to prison spokesman Jeremy Desel.

The inmates' nearly seven-year lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice argued that Native American spiritual beliefs regard hair as an extension of the soul, and that hair should only be cut when in mourning. The inmates claimed that the prison system's rules requiring men to keep their hair short or face punishment were an unfair violation of religious freedom under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

The three men have all been behind bars for decades, serving time for crimes such as murder and sexual assault. They haven't faced major disciplinary infractions in years.

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