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Monday, March 2, 2020

Inmate Kept In Solitary Confinement For a Year Because He Won’t Cut His Locks

Eric McGill, Jr.

Harrisburg, PA — Eric S. McGill Jr., a 27-year old man from Pennsylvania, has reportedly been in solitary confinement in the county jail for more than a year for refusing to cut his locks because of his religious beliefs. He has since been suffering from anxiety attacks allegedly triggered by his experience in jail, according to the lawsuit he filed.

In the lawsuit McGill filed last October, he claims three administrators at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility “have inhibited his right to free exercise of religion for no legitimate penological purpose” when they kept him in solitary confinement because he won’t cut off his dreadlocks.

A set of lawyers have recently produced an amended complaint, citing it resulted in McGill’s deteriorating mental health and anxiety attacks 2-3 times a week. The lawsuit is seeking an order to have McGill placed in the jail’s general population and is also seeking damages.

Meanwhile, the county responded that they have a policy regarding inmate hairstyles to “ensure security and cleanliness” because long dreadlocks could be used to hide contraband.

The state prison system has amended its inmate grooming policy in 2016, allowing any length of hair and dreadlocks which can be subjected to search through a handheld metal detector. The county prison, however, does not apply those rules.

McGill, who is a believer of the Rastafarian religion, refuses to cut his hair as he believes his spirit lives through his dreadlocks and that he would lose strength and essence needed for the afterlife if he would cut it.

Because of his solitary confinement, he gets only one hour outside his cell in the security housing unit, five days a week, between midnight to 2 AM. That is the only time that he is allowed to call his family.

McGill is scheduled for trial in late March in connection with a shooting case in January 2019. He is facing multiple counts of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and other crimes after he allegedly shot and injured four people.