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Plaintiffs, Rastafarian inmates in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), appeal from a judgment entered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Stanton, J.) rejecting claims, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982), that various regulations and policies of DOCS violate their first amendment right to free exercise of their religion and their fourteenth amendment right to equal protection of the laws. Benjamin v. Coughlin, 708 F.Supp. 570 (S.D.N.Y.1989). Specifically, the district court rejected plaintiffs' contentions that they were entitled to weekly congregate prayer, unrestricted wearing of religious headgear and a diet consistent with their religious beliefs.

Defendants, the Commissioner of DOCS and three correctional facility superintendents, appeal from so much of the judgment as enjoins the enforcement of a regulation requiring members of the plaintiff class to submit to a haircut upon admission to a facility under defendants' jurisdiction. The district court found that defendants were precluded from enforcing the regulation under the doctrine of collateral estoppel, and that the regulation violates the free exercise clause of the first amendment. Defendants contend that the regulation is reasonably related to valid penological interests and that litigation of the issue was improperly precluded by the district court.

For the following reasons, we affirm.


905 F.2d 571 (1990)

Thomas BENJAMIN, Errol Dunkley, Frank Forrest, Barrington Gray, Newton Hannon, and Martin Spence, on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants, Cross-Appellees,


Thomas A. COUGHLIN, Commissioner, New York State Department of Correctional Services; Stephen Dalshiem, Superintendent, Ossining Correctional Facility; Eugene S. LeFevre, Superintendent, Clinton Correctional Facility; Harold Smith, Superintendent, Attica Correctional Facility, Defendants-Appellees, Cross-Appellants.

Nos. 501, 502, Dockets 89-2265(L), 89-2267.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

Argued December 13, 1989.

Decided May 18, 1990.

New York Law School location: File #884, Box #124