Federal Government urges Florida to provide kosher meals Court to decide right of Jewish prisoners to practice their faith
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, D.C. – Moments ago, the federal government argued to protect Jewish prisoners’ right to worship from Florida bureaucrats, who currently deny kosher meals to Jewish prisoners.
The clear majority of state prisons and the federal government have provided observant Jewish prisoners with kosher meals for many years. Yet Florida’s Department of Corrections is the only large prison system in the country that refuses to provide kosher meals to observant Jewish prisoners, despite the fact that it already offers a variety of more expensive medical diets for its prisoners. The state also ignores the extensive data that shows prisoners allowed to practice their faith while in jail are much less likely to reoffend.
“When prisons refuse to provide kosher meals, many Jewish prisoners don’t eat non-kosher food; they go hungry,” said Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel of Becket, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. “That’s unnecessary, and it’s wrong. Prisoners surrender many of their physical rights at the jailhouse door, but they do not surrender their human dignity.”
The Department claims that providing kosher meals would be too expensive. But the cost of providing kosher meals is less than 0.02 percent of the Department’s annual budget. Further, 35 states and the federal government have all managed to balance their budgets while still protecting religious liberty. The Department has offered no reason why it cannot do the same. And studies show that ensuring prisoners can fully practice their faith reduces both violence in prison and repeat crime outside of prison.
“Allowing prisoners to practice their faith is better for them, better for prisons, and better for society. In other contexts, including within prisons, Florida has successfully defended religious liberty for all. It should do the same here and give up this misguided opposition to kosher diets,” said Blomberg.
Last year, a federal district court ordered the Department to begin providing kosher meals for all observant Jewish inmates, and Florida appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In March, Becket filed an amicus brief urging the protection of the religious rights of all prisoners. This lawsuit is the first time the U.S. government is suing a state prison system under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Throughout the litigation, a diverse array of religious groups have supported kosher meals for Jewish prisoners, including Christians and Hindus.
A Becket attorney is available for comment at the courthouse immediately following the hearing.
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at email@example.com or 202.349.7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court. For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more).