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Mole-faced prisoner loses shaving feud

The long-serving prisoner, identified only by the initials GQ, appeared before the Northern Territory’s disputes tribunal earlier this year, contending that being forced to shave every other day was causing him to bleed and make his moles grow larger.In the Northern Territory, male prisoners serving more than a month behind bars are required to be clean shaven and to have a No. 4 haircut. Exceptions are granted to prisoners with religious reasons as well as prisoners serving life sentences.GQ, who has two moles on his face and one on his neck, was examined in August 2020 by a doctor that recommended an ongoing “no shaving chit” and that he be allowed to keep a short beard.The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) member Lesley Hastwell dismissed the case, concluding the matter did not fall under the Anti-Discrimination Act (ADA) – as the prisoner had submitted – meaning there was no legal basis for the tribunal.However, Ms Hastwell blasted the correctional centre over its refusal to grant GQ an exception.“I feel some sympathy for the applicant as I accept that he genuinely experiences some personal discomfort and annoyance from regularly nicking these moles when shaving and it appears that he feels very frustrated at the position that has been taken by the respondent throughout,” Ms Hastwell wrote.“Although he is not technically ‘a lifer’ the applicant is serving a long term of prison and it is difficult to understand the stance that has been taken by the respondent given the medical recommendation and that there appears no disadvantage to the respondent in permitting the applicant to maintain a closely clipped beard. “It may assist his ongoing psychological wellbeing during the remainder of his term in prison if the issue were reconsidered by the respondent, however there is no legal basis for this tribunal to rule in his favour under the ADA.”Despite the prison’s healthcare manager signing off on GQ’s doctor’s recommendation, the decision was overruled by a senior correctional officer, who contended that staff had never noticed the prisoner bleeding after shaving and rejected the prisoner had any “impairment” that required special needs.In a written notice, the senior officer said GQ had the option to use his own funds to purchase an electric razor or to shave around the moles.The tribunal heard GQ, who was representing himself, refused to use his limited funds to buy the $100 electric razor, and upon borrowing his fellow inmate’s electric razor decided using one was not a “practical solution”.GQ, who is serving an eight-and-a-half-year sentence, said his basic weekly income is $7.50, and uses all those funds to ring his mother once a week.In his submission, GQ rejected the suggestion of shaving around the moles, saying “it does not pay to stand out” in the prison and that anything unusual about his appearance could draw “adverse attention” from other inmates.GQ also said prison staff had threatened to place him in solitary confinement and not allow out of his cell if did not remain clean shaven.The prisoner rejected that he was offered extra work at the facility to help him pay for the razor. He also refused to get the moles biopsied, as his doctor had proposed as an alternative.Ms Hastwell concluded the moles on GQ’s face cannot be described as an “impairment” and therefore could not be addressed under the ADA.“They appear as very small slightly raised areas of skin,” she said of GQ’s moles.“It is possible to conceive of instances where the size or number of moles on a person’s face or body are such that they abnormally mar a person’s appearance and could be described as a disfigurement, but I am not satisfied that that is the case in this instance.”Ms Hastwell also said it was “curious” that GQ had already served two years in prison before raising the issue, but had since become “very invested” in the matter.“He may be wise to reconsider some of these options if he cannot garner more medical support for his position,” Ms Hastwell said.

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