Sikh Prisoner Denied Religious Rights

December 10, 2005

Source: Daily Times

On December 10, 2005 the Daily Times reported, "Forbidden to wear his underwear, a Sikh prisoner in New York has not been eating for six months. Long underwear called Kacchera is worn by devout Sikhs to reinforce their vow of abstinence. Navdeep Singh, who began serving a five-year sentence at Fishkill Correctional Facilities on Jan 26, says prison officials dumped his underwear in the garbage despite his protestations that it was a sacred item. [Navdeep Singh] says he also has been denied access to religious items Sikhs are expected to carry with them at all times. These include a thin steel bracelet symbolizing bondage to truth, a wooden comb and a Sikh pendant... Under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act passed by Congress in 2000, religious liberties of prisoners are guaranteed protection... [Navdeep's] lawsuit alleges that Singh was put in solitary confinement for refusing to cut his hair, and misbehavior reports were filed against him when he explained how shaving off his beard would be against his religion... Though this is the first such case in New York, in November similar incidents were reported in Solano State Prison and San Quentin State Prison in California. The Sikh Coalition, a non-profit organization, says two Sikh prisoners were punished for refusing to cut their hair."