Native American Prisoner Released After Refusing to Cut His Hair

May 26, 2004

Source: American Civil Liberties Union

On May 26, 2004 the American Civil Liberties Union reported, "In a stinging rebuke to the California Department of Corrections, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today ordered the release of Billy Soza Warsoldier, a Cahuilla Native American who had refused prison orders to cut his hair short because of his religious beliefs. Prison officials had delayed his May 21st release after Warsoldier fought the policy. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, together with the law firm of Bingham McCutchen, had filed a federal lawsuit on Warsoldier’s behalf after learning that he was being penalized for practicing his religion, a central tenet of which is the prohibition against cutting one's hair except upon the death of a loved one. 'We’re very gratified by the court’s decision,' said Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. 'Delaying Mr. Warsoldier’s release for even one day as punishment for his adherence to his faith was a gross violation of his rights. We’ll continue to fight this unjust policy until no inmate is made to suffer for practicing his religion.'"