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Judge rules on kosher meals in state prisons

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Aug 24, 2015, Florida Sun-Sentinel

The court’s decision is a major victory for religious freedom,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel for the Washington D.C.-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty — long involved in the fight to ensure kosher meals in Florida prisons. “At least 35 states and the federal government provide a kosher diet to Jewish prisoners, and there is no reason Florida can’t do the same.

“Florida’s stubborn resistance to providing kosher diets has been unnecessary and unfortunate — it has harmed prisoners and cost taxpayers money. The state has been acting like an unruly schoolchild, and the court has rightly placed the prison system under extensive federal monitoring.”

The legal fight over kosher meals in Florida prisons has gone on for many years.

In 2002, the Becket Fund sued the Florida Department of Corrections on behalf of inmate Alan J. Cotton, and in October 2003, the department entered into a Settlement Agreement with Cotton to provide him with kosher meals.

In November 2003, Florida announced a new policy to provide kosher meals to all Jewish inmates who requested them. Following complaints from The Becket Fund about the limited availability of meals, however, a new kosher food program was instituted by the state in April 2004.

Also, in 2012, the Becket Fund appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta on behalf of Bruce Rich, an Orthodox Jew serving a life sentence in Florida who was denied a kosher diet.