New Hampshire prisoner claims religious right to have beard; facial hair led to secure housing

A prisoner in New Hampshire is suing the state after he was placed in secure housing for failing to shave his thick, bushy beard in violation of prison rules.

A federal judge in July ordered prison officials to give 35-year-old Frank Staples a lower security classification and transfer him to a less restrictive housing unit pending the outcome of his religious rights lawsuit.

Staples, a Taoist, maintains a thick, full-length beard. State prison rules say inmates can have a beard no longer than a quarter inch for security reasons. Staples was denied parole once because his beard landed him in the Special Housing Unit. He was granted parole in June but remains in SHU until his post-release plan is approved.

A trial is set for December.