The Shmooze

Inmates Rights Violated When Given Vegan Instead of Kosher Meals

By Michael Kaminer

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Instead of whipping up a kosher meal, you serve your observant guests a vegan dish. Is that a crime?

It is according to federal Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, at least if your “guests” are there involuntarily. The Indiana jurist ruled this week that her state’s Department of Corrections violated federal law when it substituted vegan meals for kosher for inmates, the JTA reported this week. Magnus-Stinton’s decision came in response to a class-action suit filed last year against the department by Matson Willis, an Orthodox Jewish inmate at the Miami Correctional Facility, according to JTA.

Indiana started swapping vegan vittles for kosher last year, citing higher costs, according to the Associated Press. American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ken Falk says the change affected about 90 to 120 inmates, according to the Associated Press.

While they can take heart in the ruling, Jews heading for the slammer can also guarantee themselves kosher cuisine with “appropriate effort and planning,” according to a web site called — yes — JewsinPrison. “Most facilities will make some kind of arrangements for kosher food. If it is really important to someone to have strictly kosher food, the judge should be told before the sentence,” the site advises. “The judge can then instruct the appropriate prison that they will be receiving a Jewish inmate who has special dietary needs. These needs will sometimes be accommodated with pre-cooked kosher meals that are sealed, similar to the kosher food served on airlines.”

In the Matson case, meanwhile, the judge set a hearing for November 30 on the scope of a possible injunction, the AP reported.


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