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Jewish Prisoner Denied Kosher Meals Settles with Arizona Prison Officials

by Christopher Zoukis

Officials at Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, a private prison operated at the time by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison company now known as CoreCivic, agreed to settle with a prisoner who was denied kosher meals required by his religious beliefs in Judaism. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

     During certain periods in 2010, the Saguaro facility was on lockdown, meaning the prisoners remained locked in their cells and would have their meals brought to them. Robert S. Cardines Jr., who was incarcerated at Saguaro at this time, was allegedly given bologna and other processed meats, and his requests for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were denied. Because the meat and dairy products provided were not kosher, they violated his religious dietary laws, and he couldn't eat them.

     On September 2, 2010, Cardines filed a pro se complaint in federal court against CCA Regional Director of Operations Daren Swenson, Warden Todd Thomas, and Assistant Wardens Ben Greigo and J. Bradley. Cardines argued that his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated, as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). He filed another claim for retaliation, saying the defendants kept him in lockdown for incidents he had nothing to do with, exposing him to non-kosher food for a longer period of time. Cardines sought $400,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

     On September 22, 2011, Chief Judge Roslyn O. Silver granted summary judgment for Swenson and Bradley, dismissing them from the case. Greigo and Thomas agreed with Cardines on a settlement, and the case was dismissed on January 25, 2012. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

 See: Cardines v. Swenson, et al., United States District Court for the District of Arizona, Phoenix Division, Case No. 2:10-cv-01884-ROS (Jan. 24, 2012)

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