Does Long Hair Threaten Prison Security?

In December 1997, the California Department of Corrections passed “emergency” regulations seriously restricting prisoners’ rights to have long hair, earrings and fingernail polish and affecting other so-called grooming standards. There was, of course, no emergency, only a continuing effort by the CDC to dehumanize prisoners and further isolate them from the rest of society.
The CDC has swung in its policies from any semblance of rehabilitation to being purely punitive.
To make their policies palatable to the public, they must dehumanize the prisoners. A media ban, preventing the media from entering prisons and interviewing particular prisoners, is designed to prevent the public from seeing human beings affected by these policies. Other programs, such as family visits, under the excuse that they are “conjugal” visits and a sex privilege for inmates, are also under attack. Family visits allow mothers to touch their children. With
out that fundamental nurturing, the link between a mother and her children, already strained by the forced separation, is further jeopardized for both of them.
Plans for future “emergencies” include removing many lawbooks from prison law libraries, removing weight lifting equipment from the yards, random drug testing of prisoners, ending quarterly packages and reducing good time for prisoners who actively pursue too many lawsuits.
CCWP joined many religious, cultural and prison activist organizations in denouncing the so-called “emergency grooming regulations.” Following is the statement one of our members made at the CDC hearing:
“CCWP is particularly concerned with the situation that women prisoners face in California.
“The so-called grooming standards are part of a longstanding policy which has developed in the CDC to strip back the Prisoners’ Bill of Rights which was formulated in the 1970s under Governor Jerry Brown as a response to a militant prison movement as well as growing outside support. Since that time, and particularly in the last few years, the state has pulled back from this Bill of Rights. The CDC has rescinded the Bill of Rights; has instituted a media ban policy which means that the news media is not able to enter the prisons and interview individual prisoners; has cut back significantly on family visits; has begun x-raying visitors in several institutions; has generated these so-called grooming policies; and now we hear about the possibility of abandoning quarterly packages and changing uniforms. At the same time, the prisons become more and more crowded, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association grows more and more powerful, and the budget of the CDC expands in leaps and bounds.
“One of the things that strikes me most about these so-called grooming standards is the CDC’s obsession with defining and protecting the differences between men and women. Use of the terms “flamboyant,” “masculinize” and “de-feminize” shows some of the real concern here. There are differences between prisoners, including differences of sexuality and sexual identity. Male prisoners who are more “feminine” as well as female prisoners who are more “masculine” should be protected, rather than forced to fit into molds that the CDC has determined are normal.
“There are clear issues of religious and cultural beliefs regarding individual grooming practices. We believe that the CDC is trying to make a very clear point ? that to maintain order in totally overcrowded and inhumane institutions, they must dehumanize the people within them. Their goal is to prove to the public and to the prisoners themselves that these men and women are nothing more than mirror images of each other. That individual differences between them are bad and that a faceless mass is what they are keeping behind these walls. In reading these proposed regulations I am reminded of photographs from concentration camps; where people’s individual features are lost in a mass of similarly dressed, clothed and (un)groomed people.
“The women and men in California’s prisons are not faceless – they are our mothers, our daughters, our brothers and our sons. They have done the crime; they are doing the time. Let that be punishment enough.”