August 6, 2012

States Keep Losing but Keep Fighting to Deny Prisoners Kosher Food

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — It isn’t as if there is a chance they will win. Courts as high as the U.S. Supreme Court have ruled that states and the federal prison system are required to provide kosher food to prisoners who request them for religious reasons. Yet, a Michigan inmate has filed a federal lawsuit over the prison’s lack of kosher meals. He said in a lawsuit filed in the US District Court in Grand Rapids that he has lost 30 pounds since his imprisonment and is subsisting on a diet of vegetables, bread and cereal.

In Florida, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an appeal on behalf of Bruce Rich an Orthodox Jewish prison inmate who has been denied a kosher diet by the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC). The DOC claims that it is denying a kosher diet in order to control costs and maintain security. However, at least thirty-five states and the federal government currently provide kosher diets without problems of cost or security. Moreover, from 2004 to 2007, the DOC provided a Jewish dietary program that cost only a fraction of one percent of its annual food budget and did not result in any security problems. 

Like Forida, many states have claimed that kosher food “would break the bank,” said one distributor, but our industry has demonstrated that many strictly kosher shelf stable actually are within the state’ budget.