Law enhancing California inmates’ religious protections gets nod from Gov. Newsom

(BCN) — Religious protections for incarcerated people across California will be enhanced following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approval last week of legislation allowing inmates to practice religious clothing, headwear and grooming traditions.

Senate Bill 309, proposed by Sen. Dave Cortese, D-San Jose, sets rules about religious clothing, headwear, and grooming for people being booked into prison or jail. The law follows research that shows when inmates can practice their spiritual tradition while in detention, they’re less likely to be violent or engage in other negative behaviors, Cortese’s office said in a news release Saturday.

Maintenance of free exercise rights among incarcerated people also reduces the chances of recidivism or repeat offenses, the office added.

“Freedom of religious expression doesn’t only exist outside of prison walls. Never again in California should someone be stripped of their religion while they are booked into a detention facility,” Cortese said in a statement.

“Regardless of whether you’re a Muslim person donning a hijab, a Jewish individual wearing a yarmulke, or a Sikh person wearing turban, you will keep your civil liberties and First Amendment rights even while serving time,” the senator added.

SB 309 establishes a uniform and officially documented policy applicable to both state and local correctional and detention facilities. The law ensures that individuals with religious affiliations can retain their personal religious attire or head coverings until they have the opportunity to purchase or access similar garments provided by the facility itself.

Moreover, the law mandates that detention facilities must permit individuals to maintain their hair or beards for religious reasons.

SB 309 is sponsored by the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR-California and co-sponsored by the Tayba Foundation.

“Religious expression is not only a civil right — but an inherent, human right. Religious clothing, headwear, and grooming are not just parts of a person’s appearance, they are parts of a person’s identity and personhood,” said Nazeehah Khan, CAIR-California’s Policy and Government Affairs Manager, in a statement.

Khan also thanked Gov. Newsom and Sen. Cortese, as well as Assemblymembers Eloise Gomez Reyes and Ash Kalra for supporting the bill.

Copyright © 2023 Bay City News, Inc.

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