State resumes kosher meals in jails
State to resume kosher meals for inmates after 5 years without them; Federal government sued
Jewish inmates in Florida who have gone more than five years without kosher meals will again be served food in line with their religious beliefs, the state said Monday.
Though no timeline was given for the rollout of kosher meals across state prisons, those who fought for the change heralded the news.
"It means that Jewish inmates who are sincere in observing their faith can finally do so," said Rabbi Menachem Katz of the Aleph Institute, a Jewish organization that fought for the return of kosher meals.
When the Corrections Department ended its Jewish Dietary Accommodation Program in August 2007, it cited both cost and fairness as issues, saying it would be impossible to satisfy the preferences of the 100 faiths represented among inmates.
It was a blow not only to strict Jews, but also to many Muslims who relied on kosher meals because the state doesn't offer halal ones.
In an attempt to appease some, the state suspended the use of all pork products and suggested Jews and Muslims could choose a vegan meal, absent from any animal products. But those options still did not meet the strict rules of kosher law.
The long fight over the meals came to a head in August, when the federal government sued the state over the issue, saying it "forces hundreds of its prisoners to violate their core religious beliefs on a daily basis."
Katz singled out Gov. Rick Scott for the change. Scott visited Aleph Institute's headquarters in Surfside on Friday.
Corrections spokeswoman Jo Ellyn Rackleff said the state would expand a small kosher pilot program in South Florida statewide, though she said most of the details were still being worked out.
"We are going to take that program and expand it," she said. "We really don't have a lot of answers for you. We can't tell you how much it's going to cost. We don't know where we're going to get the food."
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