US: Rastafarian inmate who sued to wear dreadlocks released from confinement

US: Rastafarian inmate who sued to wear dreadlocks released from confinement
This undated image released by The Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, Correctional Facility shows Eric McGill, awaiting trial in a shooting case. (Lebanon County Correctional Facility via AP)
This undated image released by The Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, Correctional Facility shows Eric McGill, awaiting trial in a shooting case. (Lebanon County Correctional Facility via AP)

(AP) — A Pennsylvania inmate whose dreadlocks violated a jail’s haircut policy has been released from solitary confinement after more than a year, although his federal lawsuit is still pending.

A federal magistrate judge on Wednesday granted the request by Eric S. McGill Jr. to withdraw his motion for a preliminary injunction, because the Lebanon County jail adopted a religious exception to its dreadlocks ban and let him out of solitary on April 23.

“It’s absolutely good news, but the fight is not over,” McGill attorney Matthew Feldman said.

Matthew Clayburger, a lawyer for Lebanon County and the three jail administrators who McGill sued in October by filing a handwritten federal claim, confirmed the new hair policy and said McGill has been transferred to the jail’s general population but declined further comment.

McGill, 27, an inmate awaiting trial in August in a shooting case, declined to cut his dreadlocks, which are important to his faith, Rastafarianism.

That landed him in solitary confinement, where he claimed to have regular anxiety attacks.

Feldman said a second Rastafarian inmate in the Lebanon jail who also refused to cut his dreadlocks has also been released from solitary after more than four months as a result of the new religious exception to the jail policy.

Through his lawyers, McGill released a statement that said he felt like he did the right thing.

“I made a difference not just for me, but for others who didn’t have a voice,” McGill said.

McGill’s civil case will continue, seeking an end to the ban on dreadlocks for those who do not have a religious motivation to wear them, Feldman said.

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