With the reinstatement of kosher meals for Jewish inmates in Florida prisons, Muslim prisoners in the state are now demanding kosher food as well. Kosher meal rights were reinstated about six months ago, after Florida prison authorities halted them in 2007, because they were too expensive. The meals were reinstated after the federal government sued the Florida Department of Corrections last year over the violation of rights of Jewish prisoners.
One of the reasons Florida ended the program, officials said at the time, was because of the expense of supplying meals not only to Jews, but to Muslims as well. Muslims are bidden to eat halal foods, their own version of “kosher,” but deem kosher food eaten by Jews acceptable as well.
In addition, the state claimed, many prisoners faked being Jewish or Muslim in order to transfer to one of the 13 state prisons that had kosher cuisine. They did this, the state claimed, in order to be closer to family, or to join up with gangs and criminal associates in other prisons. To resolve this, the state said that beginning in July, it will serve kosher meals to all who are eligible for them in all its prisons. The program should be fully implemented by the end of the year, officials said.
Now, with the reinstatement of meals for Jewish prisoners, Muslims in Florida prisons are seeking to get back on the “kosher list” as well. Attorneys representing Muslims are preparing their own lawsuit to demand the meals. The state has offered to hire a Islamic functionary to ensure that the general service meals are acceptable for Muslim prisoners, but attorneys representing the prisoners said that they feared that too many mistakes would be made, and that they preferred to get meals from the same supervised kosher source as Jews.