Arkansas prisoner's beard will be subject of U.S. Supreme Court case

(KATV) A prisoner within the Arkansas Department of Corrections will have his case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, after submitting a hand-written appeal. Gregory Holt, 38, also known as Malik Muhammad is a practicing Muslim and has asked the Arkansas Department of Corrections to allow him to grow a beard.

The U.S. Supreme Court does accept hand-written appeals in the case that the author does not have access to a typewriter or computer.

"He did this case hand written on lined paper from his prison cell. All the way through the district court, the court of appeals and the Supreme Court and he got this injunction pending appeal, on his own," said Douglas Laycock, a lawyer from the University of Virginia, representing Holt, "That's not seen very often at all."

The department of corrections does not allow beards because of hygiene. The rule also says it minimizes the prisoner's ability to disguise contraband and weapons. In Holt's letter, he notes that many other states allow beards in prison. Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel will represent the state before the Supreme Court in October.

"Our argument is that this is an area in which the state has discretion, if other states don't see a security issue with growing beards, if that's the way they see it, then that's fine but we believe we have the responsibility, in fact the constitutional obligation to ensure the safety of everyone that we've incarcerated and everyone that works with in our prison system," McDaniel said.

Holt's representation believes the policy will be struck down.

"Forty-three states, the District of Columbia and the federal prisons all let prisoners grow beards longer than what Mr. Holt wants to grow, so the security problems are obviously soluble," Laycock said.

Holt is arguing to grow a one-half inch beard. The Supreme Court is allowing Holt to grow the beard while the case is being heard.

Holt was sentenced to life in prison in 2010 for stabbing his girlfriend in Little Rock.