Inmate Challenges State Prison System's Grooming Regulations

AUGUST 14, 2006 - Posted at 7:53 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - An Arkansas inmate says he spent an extra seven years locked up because he refused to cut his hair or trim his beard.  And Michale Fegans has sued, because he says his religious rights have been violated.

Fegans, who has been transferred to federal custody to serve a 10-year term, says his religious beliefs forbid him from cutting his hair.  Fegans is a believer of the Assemblies of Yahweh.

Last week, U.S. District Judge James Moody heard Fegans' challenge to the corrections department's grooming standards.  Judge Moody is expected to decide on the issue soon.

Correction Department spokeswoman Dina Tyler says grooming standards are in place for safety at the prisons.  Tyler says long hair can be used to conceal contraband.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)