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Florida Prisons End Religious Diet Accommodation

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) has ended a four-year-long program that provided Jewish and Muslim prisoners with meals that satisfy their religious requirements. Originally, the program was aimed solely at Jewish prisoners.

Costs and fairness were cited as the factors to end the FDOC’s Jewish Dietary Accommodation Program. It was available at only two FDOC prisons, resulting in the 259 prisoners involved to be transferred upon requesting to participate. Another 95 were seeking inclusion when the program ended.

Because FDOC does not provided halal food, many Muslims also participated in the kosher food program. Now, Jewish and Muslim prisoners must now eat a vegan diet to meet their religious requirements. In an attempt to satisfy Muslims, FDOC changed its menu in September 2007 to exclude pork items.

The vegan diet will not satisfy kosher meal requirements unless it is prepared separately from other meals. That is not likely to happen in FDOC’s privatized kitchens. FDOC was already confronted by a lawsuit brought on behalf of Muslim prisoners that faulted FDOC for denying them meals in accord with their religious beliefs. Randall Berg, of the Florida Justice Institute, said he is considering amending that complaint to include Jewish prisoners.

Source: Miami Herald.

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