Jasper, FL - Jewish Inmates Denied Kosher Meals for Passover
Jasper, FL - Winter Springs Rabbi Maurice S. Kaprow has been trying for the past several weeks to assist a Jewish family with a relative in Hamilton Correctional Institution to receive kosher meals during Passover.
The response from the Florida Department of Corrections is that while they offer vegetarian meals to Jewish inmates, but not Kosher.
Here’s what George B. Sapp, Deputy Secretary of Institutiion and Re-entry, wrote Kaprow:
“There are over 100 faiths or religious choices represented within the Department of Corrections’ inmate population. Many of these groups indicate requirements for special dietary accommodations. However, the Department does not grant preferential treatment to inmates of any particular religion. Consequently, no outside group of any kind provides substitute meals to inmates within the Department’s institutions.
“We do provide vegan and no-meat alternative entreee meal plans. These constitute an appropriate religous accomodation of the major faith groups represented in the Department’s inmate population that have dietary requirements as a part of the tenets of their faith.
“It is important that the Department keep its rules uniform in this regard. Providing Inmates who practice the jewish faith withKosher food for Passover as meal substitution for eight days, while providing other religous groups with only vegan or no-meat alternative entree meals would subject the Department to legal challenges under the Equal Protection clause of the United States Constitution. In addition, providing such meals would violate the First Amendment Clause because it would favor one religious group over other religious groups without any legitimate secular reason…”
Kaprow isn’t buying it.
“First off, there are federal court decisions in a number of other circuits that have required state institutiions to provid Kosher food,” Kaprow contends. “Secondly, the states of New York, Texas, Colorado and many other state institutions provide Kosher food food for their inmates. It is clear it is possible to do. It’s done in other states. It’s done in other locations.”
The vegan and no-meal meals may work for some Jewish inmates, but not for those who are devout, Kaprow said. You don’t know if those veggies meals are cooked in pots and prepared with utensils that were also used to cut and cook meat.
Kaprow said there are pre-prepared, packaged Kosher meals that could be provided to the prisons that wouldn’t cost the Department of Corrections any money or additional preparation time.
Sapp, in his letter to Kaprow, lists several reasons why this wouldn’t work:
“There are security problems associated with inspecting and securing packaged foods — the Department simply does not have the manpower to inspect every package that wold be brought to institutions. Thus, the situation would be ripe for introduction of contraband.
“Inmates will use Kosher items to trad with other Inmates for contraband (or attempt to do so – either ways raising security concerns).
“There could well be retaliation against participating inmates and disruption of the institution in general by non-participating inmates to express their displeasure.
“Other inmates view providing a special diet to a select group of inmates as preferential treatment. This has a negative impact on inmate morale and subsequently the institutional environment and orderly operation of the institution…”
Kaprow concedes that with Passover ending April 6 there is nothing that can be done to change Department of Corrections policy or provide devout Jewish inmates with Kosher food.
But that doesn’t mean the issue is done and over forever.
For this year it’s a done deal. Holiday end on nights of sixth of april.
“We’re talking now in terms of Kosher food on a regular basis and certainly for Passover, which comes every year,” he said. “It’s not right.”
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