Thu | Apr 9, 2020

No new recordings for Buju

Published:Wednesday | June 22, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Buju ... convicted in February on gun and drug charges.

Reggae superstar Buju Banton will be barred from recording any new materials if he is sent to a United States (US) federal prison when he is sentenced in a Florida court tomorrow.

However, Buju, whose real name is Mark Myrie, might not have to cut off his trademark dreadlocks and will be allowed to practise his Rastafarian beliefs under strict supervision.

Chris Burke, a public affairs specialist at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, DC, said federal prison guidelines bar inmates from conducting "business activities" while they are incarcerated, but added that they do not "normally" require inmates to remove body hair.

Burke said a number of federal prisons have music programmes that include instruments which inmates are allowed to play, but made it clear that recording equipment is banned from these facilities.

"It (recording music) is on our list of prohibited activities for which inmates are subject to disciplinary action," he wrote in an emailed response to The Gleaner.

The bureau is the agency responsible for the custody and care of inmates being held in the 116 federal prisons in the US.

Buju was convicted in February on three of four federal drug and gun charges in the US Middle District Court, Florida Division, in Tampa.

He faces 15 years to life in prison when he is sentenced tomorrow.

There has been concern that Buju, who converted to the Rastafarian faith in 1994 after the death of his friend, dreadlocked reggae artiste, Garnett Silk, could lose his locks if he is sent to a federal prison.

Courts spilt

US-based Jamaican law professor David Rowe triggered those concerns when he pointed out that US federal circuit courts are split over whether Rastafarians in custody should submit to prison grooming regulations.

He pointed to two cases (Gartrell v Ashcroft and Hines v South Carolina) where the courts upheld federal prison grooming policies to cut excessively long beards and hair.

In another case, however - Benjamin v Coughlin - the court ruled that a Rastafarian was not required to cut his dreadlocks for a prison photograph.

A US circuit court has also suggested that, if necessary, the federal government's prohibition of dreadlocks should be upheld for security reasons.

However, Burke emphasised that the bureau recognises the Rastafarian faith as a religion, and insisted that the agency does not force inmates to cut their hair.

In addition, he said arrangements about religious diets are discussed with inmates.

According to the bureau's website, the agency does not require inmates to indicate their religious beliefs.

The website said inmates may designate any or no religious preference during their initial screening.

That can, however, be changed at any time by notifying the chaplain in writing.

The Rastafarian movement began in Jamaica in the 1920s.

The Rastafarian lifestyle usually includes the ritual use of marijuana, the wearing of dreadlocks, and vegetarianism.