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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ex-guard's Rastafarian beliefs lead to prison suit

Fresno BeeSolomon Stanley says he never thought his Rastafari religion — which mandates followers to wear dreadlocks and a beard — would cause him problems as a prison guard.

"It's not a radical religion," he says. "We promote peace."

But his refusal to cut his hair and beard has generated two lawsuits — one in federal court in Fresno and another in Fresno County Superior Court — that accuse prison officials in Delano of religious harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

In his lawsuits, Stanley, 47, an ex-prison guard, contends North Kern State Prison officials gave him a religious exemption in 2003 to wear long dreadlocks and a beard.

But when a new command unit took over in 2008, Stanley says, his supervisors dispatched prison guards "to do their dirty work." They called him "Bob Marley" and "Rastaman" and badgered him to cut his hair. When he complained, they changed his job duties.

Stanley says the alleged harassment got so bad that he received a medical discharge in December 2010 because of stress.

Stanley, who lives in Visalia, is seeking $1 million in lost wages and damages for emotional distress. continue reading...

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