Two more prison officers file lawsuits against State over no beard policy

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Two more prison officers file lawsuits against State over no beard policy

Two months after prison officer Arshad Singh filed a lawsuit over being bypassed for promotion based on his beard, two more officers have filed similar suits.

Muslim prison officers Sherwin Ramnarine and Javed Boodram have filed separate lawsuits against the State over a policy barring them and their colleagues, who share their faith, from having beards. 

Lawyers for Ramnarine and Boodram claim the policy breached their constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religious belief and observance. 

Reports state that after threatening legal action, Ramnarine, who was assigned to the Claxton Bay Correctional Facility, and Boodram, who was last assigned to the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca, were reassigned to the Port-of-Spain State Prison. 

High Court Judge Margaret Mohammed granted injunctions on Monday, barring acting Prisons Commissioner Deopersad Ramoutar from effecting the proposed transfers pending the outcome of their substantive lawsuits over the policy. 

Both men claim that since joining the prison service, they were repeatedly advised to shave their beards that they keep as part of their religious beliefs. 

Ramnarine claimed he had asked a senior Muslim officer to make representations to amend the policy but he refused and also declined to deliver a letter from Ramnarine on the issue. 

Both Boodram and Ramnarine claimed they were threatened with disciplinary action for repeatedly failing to comply with requests to shave their beards and filed the lawsuits as a result. 

Lawyers for both men said it pains their clients to have to choose between their careers and religion.

The officers are seeking a series of declarations against the policy and compensation for breaches of their constitutional rights.