Rastafarian man whose head was shaved in La. prison loses appeal
NEW ORLEANS, La. (WAFB) - A Fifth Circuit panel has upheld a lower court’s ruling which blocks a Rastafarian man from seeking payment after a prison guard forcibly shaved his head.
The man, Damon Landor, attempted to seek payment from individual state officials under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which spells out certain religious protections from inmates. But the panel explained that allowing Landor to sue individual officials under RLUIPA runs afoul of an already established legal precedent.
In an opinion filed Thursday, the panel wrote “we emphatically condemn the treatment that Landor endured. Still, we remain bound by our prior decision.”
Landor was incarcerated in 2020 and had prison stays at St. Tammany Parish Detention Center and LaSalle Correctional Center. Both facilities allowed him to keep his locks, with LaSalle even amending policies to accommodate Landor.
Under Rastafarian belief, those who practice are prohibited from cutting their hair.
Landor was moved to Raymond Laborde Correctional Center in the final three weeks of his sentence where his treatment changed.
“Upon arrival, Landor was met by an intake guard. Acting preemptively, Landor explained that he was a practicing Rastafarian and provided proof of past religious accommodations. And, amazingly, Landor also handed the guard a copy of our decision in Ware v. Louisiana Department of Corrections, 866 F.3d 263 (5th Cir. 2017), which held that Louisiana’s policy of cutting the hair of Rastafarians violated RLUIPA. Unmoved by our caselaw, the guard threw Landor’s papers in the trash and summoned RLCC’s warden, Marcus Myers,” the opinion states.
The opinion explains that Landor was unable to prove the court had recognized his religious beliefs in prior rulings and was taken to a room by two guards who handcuffed him to a chair and shaved his head.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick initially heard the case in the Middle District court and dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice in September of 2022.
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