Jewish Journal


May 10, 2011

Appeals court upholds kosher meals for Indiana prisoners


The Indiana Department of Corrections must provide kosher food for observant Jewish inmates after an appeals court dismissed the department’s appeal of a lower court decision.

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Monday in Maston Willis v. Commission, Indiana Department of Corrections.

Meals in the correction system had been changed in order to cut costs.

U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson had ruled last November in Indianapolis in response to a class-action suit filed last year against the department by Matson Willis, an Orthodox Jewish inmate at the Miami Correctional Facility that the change violated his religious rights.

The Indiana Department of Corrections already provides vegan and halal meals to prisoners with those dietary restrictions; it tried to substitute the kosher meals with vegan.

Some 90 to 120 inmates were affected by the change, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The American Jewish Committee had filed an amicus brief in the case.

“As Gandhi said, ‘A society should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members,’ ” said Dan Elbaum, AJC’s Chicago director. “Today’s dismissal is a victory for those who treasure religious freedom.”

The landmark Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act compels states to accommodate reasonable religious requests from prison inmates.

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