Arkansas Prisons Drop Beard Restrictions

Jan 15, 2016

Credit Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

Arkansas inmates will no longer be prohibited from growing facial hair. The state’s Board of Corrections voted Thursday to modify the state’s grooming policy. 

 In 2015 inmates were allowed to grow beards based on sincerely held religious beliefs, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January. The state had argued beards in prison were a security risk. 

According to Department of Corrections spokesperson Cathy Frye, 5,675 inmates cited religious reasons for growing facial hair in 2015.

Frye said prison chaplains were spending an inordinate amount of time on the matter, and found themselves in antagonistic roles with inmates.

"[They] felt it put them in the position of trying to determine whether someone was being sincere, or whether they had a sincerely held religious belief,” she said. 

The department granted a little less than half the requests, and received 607 grievances following denials.