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MONROE v. BOMBARD

October 22, 1976

Alfred MONROE a/k/a Ismail Abdur Rahim et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Roy BOMBARD, Individually and as Superintendent of Greenhaven Correctional Facility, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CARTER

ROBERT L. CARTER, District Judge.

 Plaintiffs have moved for an injunction barring the application of the no-beard rule at the Greenhaven Correctional Facility to those inmates required to grow beards out of medical necessity, and to members of the Sunni Muslim religion who must grow beards in the free exercise of their religious beliefs. In addition, plaintiffs have moved for class action certification. To the extent indicated herein, plaintiffs' motions are hereby granted.

 Facts:

 On April 27, 1976, plaintiff Monroe filed a pro se complaint challenging the application of the rule prohibiting the wearing of beards at the Greenhaven Correctional Facility ("Greenhaven") and seeking injunctive relief and damages. On June 23, 1976, an amended complaint was filed by the named plaintiffs, all of whom are confined at Greenhaven, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated. Jurisdiction was founded on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343(3). The amended complaint, which seeks injunctive and declaratory relief, and damages, alleges that plaintiffs are required to grow beards for medical or religious reasons, or both, and that they have been forbidden to do so by the Greenhaven administration.

 Named as defendants in the action were Roy Bombard, the Superintendent of Greenhaven, and the man responsible for the overall operation and management of the institution; Walter Fogg, Deputy Superintendent at Greenhaven in charge of security; and Officers Sperbeck, Seitz and Murray, who are correctional officers on the staff at Greenhaven.

 On May 3, 1976, plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction. Hearings on the motion were held on May 13, June 3, June 24, and July 1, 1976.

 Discussion

 I

 The Medical Claim

 Regulation 2.5 of the Greenhaven Correctional Facility Inmate Handbook of Rules and Regulations (June, 1975) provides that "[a] beard of any type is not allowed". *fn1" The testimony indicates that the only exception to this rule is made in cases of medical necessity. In a memorandum to all inmates dated June 25, 1976, Superintendent Bombard restated the facility's policy in this regard as follows:

 
"If an inmate believes he has a skin condition which becomes aggravated by shaving regularly, he should be examined by one of the Facility Physicians, for treatment of this condition. If the attending physician believes that regular shaving is a causative factor, he may issue an order exempting the inmate from shaving with a razor. This order authorizes the inmate to shave with clippers available in the housing units or barber shop. Beard growth may not exceed one quarter of an inch. Orders are written for a period not to exceed 30 days and may be reissued if the physician deems this to be necessary."

 Several of the named plaintiffs suffer from a skin condition known as pseudo folliculitis barbe. *fn2" According to the testimony of Dr. Oliver Fein, a dermatologist on the faculty of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, this condition is relatively common among blacks. The treatment of choice for the disease is to allow the facial hair to grow without shaving. According to Dr. Thomas Rigney, Regional Director of Health Services of the New York State Department of Corrections, the policy at Greenhaven is to treat pseudo folliculitis by allowing inmates to grow beards not in excess of one quarter inch in length. According to Dr. Rigney, the quarter inch in length is sufficient to avoid aggravating or irritating the skin. Dr. Fein testified, however that in his expert opinion, a beard of one quarter inch length would, in some circumstances, be too short to allow effective treatment of the condition. Indeed, one of the witnesses testified that he continued to suffer from pseudo folliculitis when forced to trim his beard to a quarter inch length.

 While it is true that Dr. Rigney has had considerable experience in treating pseudo folliculitis, there is absolutely no justification for a rigid rule with regard to beards grown out of medical necessity. Inmates who must grow beards for medical reasons are entitled to have that right regulated by competent medical advice -- not by administrative fiat. Accordingly, defendants are hereby ordered to modify their present policy with respect to beards grown for medical reasons so that beards in excess of one quarter inch in length may be grown in cases where the medical staff at the prison has determined that this is necessary in order to treat an inmate's condition properly.

 It is important to note that several of the witnesses testified that for a period of time commencing in August, 1975, the doctors at the prison were prohibited from issuing medical passes to grow beards unless such passes had first been cleared by the ...


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