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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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Religious Groups Move to Protect Prisoner Rights

Young Israel, RCA, Agudath Israel and OU join forces on behalf of kashrut,
By:
Coleman Federal Prison Camp, Orlando, Florida (illustrative only)

Coleman Federal Prison Camp, Orlando, Florida (illustrative only)
Photo Credit: Tom Benitez / Orlando Sentinel ORG XMIT: DIGITAL

A coalition of Orthodox Jewish groups filed friend of the court briefs in two high-profile cases involving religious practice in prisons.

On May 28 the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs  filed a brief in the Atlanta-based federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the matter of access to kosher meals in the Florida prison system and on May 29 in the U.S. Supreme Court which in its session beginning in October will consider the case of a Muslim prisoner in Arkansas who wants to grow his beard longer than the state’s regulation one-quarter inch.

The Florida case dates to 2010 when a Jewish prisoner serving life for the 1995 murder of his parents, Bruce Rich, said the state’s refusal to provide him with a kosher meal violated his rights under federal law.

The Obama administration joined the case in support of Rich in 2012 and last December a federal court ruled that the Florida Department of Corrections had until July 1 to begin distributing kosher meals.

The state at first agreed, but then recently launched an appeal, saying it was swamped with requests for kosher meals and that acceding to the demand would be prohibitive.

Many of the prisoners requesting kosher meals are believed to be feigning adherence to observant Judaism, and assessing who is genuine and who is not is seen as constitutionally perilous for a government authority.

Prisoners prefer the meals because they are sealed and are seen as better quality. Feeding a prisoner costs $1.52 a day with regular meals and over $4 a day with kosher meals.

Prison officials said they had expected about 300 requests and instead got over 4,400 and expected the number to balloon after the meals start being distributed.

In the Commission on Law’s brief, attorney Nathan Lewin said that it would be unjust to deny truly observant prisoners kosher meals because of the fraudulent claims of others.

In the Arkansas case, the coalition was filing in support of Gregory Holt, a Muslim who says his observance requires him to grow out his beard.

In the brief, Lewin notes that 39 other jurisdictions permit beards of any length, which he says is constitutionally protected.

Lewin, a member of the Supreme Court bar, in the brief cites the precedent of observant Jews in the military who successfully sued to keep their beards.

In a release, Lewin’s office noted that his briefs “cited and discussed traditional Jewish sources such as Maimonides, the Chofetz Chaim, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe.”

Among the groups making up the coalition are Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox Union, the National Council of Young Israel and the Rabbinical Council of America.

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26 Responses to “Religious Groups Move to Protect Prisoner Rights”

  1. There are jews in prison?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Re; Ms.Budzi: Do you ever read a newspaper? There are hundreds, even thousands of Jew's in jail. Mainly, white collar crimes. Although, some have committed capital offenses.

  3. You know , they have no rights, we have to pay taxes to Support them, LOL… kosher meals are you kidding me, give them Hot Dogs…

  4. Why not have Jewish inmates who are religious form a kosher kitchen? That would cut the cost completely.

  5. I wonder HOW MANY prisoners are JEWISH! Curiosity killed the cat!

  6. I know in CANADA a RABBI (supposedly is NOT allowed in our prisons). Did not follow up on the story but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

  7. Mary-Lou Wiseblatt that is an awesome idea.

  8. Stop giving kosher meals!

  9. The Muslim inmates can get all hallel foods why can’t Jewish inmates get kosher then both Muslim and Jewish inmates can fulfill there dietary laws.

  10. The Muslim inmates can get all hallel foods why can’t Jewish inmates get kosher then both Muslim and Jewish inmates can fulfill there dietary laws.

  11. Another Political Correct move? I thought the reason people were put in Prison is to be Punished for Crimes! Don’t forget the 60″ mounted flat screen, top of line Apple computer, make sure they have full Wi- fi and cable, and make sure they have an apple I 6s, full gym privilege with Olympic size pools, sauna, the best Education, hope I didn’t forget anything, oh yes, Sleep Number beds are a must for a Good Nights Sleep! And one other thing! Instead of Money being put into an account for them, Gold and Silver would be a much better option!
    After All, they’ve worked Hard to gain the Positions they have! They Deserve Only The Best!

  12. Another Political Correct move? I thought the reason people were put in Prison is to be Punished for Crimes! Don’t forget the 60″ mounted flat screen, top of line Apple computer, make sure they have full Wi- fi and cable, and make sure they have an apple I 6s, full gym privilege with Olympic size pools, sauna, the best Education, hope I didn’t forget anything, oh yes, Sleep Number beds are a must for a Good Nights Sleep! And one other thing! Instead of Money being put into an account for them, Gold and Silver would be a much better option!
    After All, they’ve worked Hard to gain the Positions they have! They Deserve Only The Best!

  13. One solution would be to free all Jewish prisoners. They’ve already freed thousands of Palestinians over the years.

  14. One solution would be to free all Jewish prisoners. They’ve already freed thousands of Palestinians over the years.

  15. Eden Calhoun says:

    that would be nice in the States by Federal mandate

  16. Well many religions have allowed and non allowed foods. Does this mean that meal time in prison is going to look like a Vegas Buffet?

  17. Well many religions have allowed and non allowed foods. Does this mean that meal time in prison is going to look like a Vegas Buffet?

  18. Jacob Maslow says:

    Prisoners made a mistake but they are still human.

  19. James Moden says:

    I agree with others who have posted the idea of having the Jewish inmates form a kosher kitchen and save the costs.

  20. Kosher kitchens, good. Prisoners have committed specific crimes with specific punishments. A prison should not be a torture center with whatever deprivations or mistreatment anyone can think up. Why shouldn’t every prisoner get kosher food? Who is it that is religiously or otherwise banned from fit food? Kosher should be the he common denominator.

  21. Hell, FREE the JEWISH Prisoners and make the MOSLEMS eat PORK, HAM and BACON for EVERY MEAL.

  22. Yet in the UK the Dept of Justice goes to extremes by providing Halal meals for Moslem and forcibly non-Moslem prisoners.

  23. Prisoners do have rights. But there is also an expectation of punishment in the measure that matches the crime. Mollycoddling criminals has always led to the downward spiral of the overall moral climate of a nation. Proven murderers deserve a swift and painless death. Proven robbers deserve to have their property taken away from them. They all need to restitute in accordance with their actions. And so on for other crimes. A nation is judged and rewarded or punished in accordance to the justice it metes out.

  24. As cruel and as inhumane it may seem,I love certain laws of the Arabic countrys where theft are concerned,you will lose the hand or hands you use for theft,I have heard in some Arabic countrys,no one picks up anything if it dropped.at the mall in Dubai,you walk pass the item,the person who have dropped it or lost it will find it in the same place

  25. Ah,did I just like my own comment no I need to add,I cannot exactly remember what chapter in the Bible,it is old testament and I came across it as I always open the Bible randomely looking for a scriptue,and it mentions if you read carefully,if you take a life,you must pay with your life,maybe you will now what chapter or book

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