Inmate claims he’s been in lockdown for over a year for refusing to cut his hair

Editor’s Note:  The following is a letter submitted by an inmate at the David Wade Correctional in Homer, La, complaining that he was reportedly placed on extended lockdown for refusing to cut his hair because of his religious beliefs. It has not be independently verified.

Dear Editor,

   My name is Ladarrian Jones, Sr. #606632 and I’m housed at David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, La. I’m from Monroe, Louisiana and I’ve been incarcerated since 2011 and have been at David Wade Correctional Center since September 2013.

I was placed on extended lockdown for refusing to cut my hair, 24 hours a day for over a year now, sleeping on a concrete slab without a mattress.  I’m a faithful Rastafarian and it’s not in my religious beliefs to cut my hair.

My rights are being violated by guards at David Wade Correctional Center. Recently, I was written up by Major Wallace for growing my hair into dreadlocks. He (Major Wallace) stated that my type of hair wasn’t in compliance nor approved. See Christopher Ware vs Louisiana Department of Corrections, 866 F.3d 263 (5th Cir.2017) guarantees me the right to practice my religious beliefs without discrimination or prejudice.

It also has been approved by the head chaplain that I am exempt from cutting my hair because I am a sincere Rastafarian and all people, including those in prison, have a fundamental right to express their religious beliefs from discrimination.

I am in compliance and I am appealing this decision right now.

I’m being told that my hair “can” be, not “is” a threat to security because my hair is twisted in dreadlocks by white guards who know nothing about a black man’s hair or culture.

It is known that African Americans’ hair is naturally curlly & twists on its own if you don’t comb it or when water is introduced to our hair. When you define dreadlocks it says “a natural hairstyle in which the hair is twisted into long matted-like locks.”

So whether I twist it or it’s naturally twisted on its own, my religion calls for the following exception(s) to the provisions of department regulation and/or offender policy according to my religion, the vow I made, and my Rastafarian practice.

It calls for me to let my hair grow and naturally let my hair lock into dreadlocks. Numbers 6:3 “All the days of the vow his separation there shall no razor come upon his head until the days be fulfilled in which he separates himself unto the Lord, he shall be holy and let the locks of the hair of his head grow.”

How can I get help from this current situation? Hours after court, I was stripped searched and my cell was ram shacked and shook down and when I asked what was the reasoning, Captain Burns replied: “It came from higher-ups”. So not only are my rights being violated but also it’s apparent that retaliation has been sought. Like Richard Dickson, a former inmate at David Wade once said.

“These people won’t let me out a cell because of my hair. What about rehabilitating me? Preparing me for society when my time is up?”

Racism is very alive at David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, La. My problems all began with one white officer (Major Wallace) who once said: “there’s no such thing as dreadlocks and Rastafarian is not a real religion.” One motto I always lived by that I learned at Ouachita Parish High School is “only the strong survive”