Sunday, August 26, 2007

Florida State Prisons curtail special meals for Jews and Muslims

The Florida Department of Corrections has decided it's too costly to serve special meals that accommodate both Jews and Muslims, so they will now {sniff} have to settle for Vegan or Vegetarian meals. Considering the small percentage of Jewish (est. 2.2%) and Muslim (est. 3.7%) inmate population, the State believes that money would be better served for educational and vocational programming. ...
... it costs about $2.66 (euro1.96) daily to serve inmates three regular meals. Kosher meals cost the same, but with costs for disposable containers and transportation, since the food was not prepared in each facility, the price came to about $4.71 (euro3.47) daily. Prepackaged kosher meals would have cost roughly $12 (euro8.84) to $15 (euro11.05) daily per prisoner, according to the department, but also may have come with additional costs for transport and supplementation with additional food items.

Kosher meals were served to both Muslims and Jews alike, because the Florida prison system does not serve Halal food and Kosher foods are prepared in a similar manner:
both exclude pork and mandate a specific way in which an animal is to be killed. Kosher laws also dictate the way food is cooked.

Florida State mandates 3 meals be served to inmates, 2 of which must be hot. It also stipulates that "inmates who wish to observe religious dietary laws receive a diet sufficient to sustain them in good health without violating those dietary laws.''

Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel in Tallahassee, who was a member of a group that reviewed religious dietary accommodations in prisons, noted that unless the vegan food is prepared separately from other meals, it would not satisfy kosher law.

Ahmed Bedier of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Tampa said vegan food would meet the religious requirements of those who follow a halal diet, but would cause undue hardship. ``Either you have a choice of violating your own religion beliefs or you're coerced to only eat vegan,'' Bedier said. ``That's probably not a reasonable accommodation.''

Call me insensitive but, hey, they're lucky they even have those options!! Now, I'm a vegetarian and I understand the need to adhere to certain dietary restrictions: when the airline industry still served food (if you could call it that) rather than those pitiful snacks, I'd always request a veggie meal or a fruit plate and they were very happy to comply. Some airlines actually had various kinds of veggie meals. But these men and women are in prison, not on some jaunt from Miami to L.A.! When you commit a crime you relinquish your rights to special dietary concessions.

No surprise, Florida State has already been sued (still unresolved) by the Florida Justice Institute on behalf of Muslims denied their right to Halal meals, and you can bet this next decision is going to cause an uproar.


Karen said...

I think this is a terrific, common sense decision. For once. They'll get their nutrition needs met with the vegetarian meals. I think if the prisoner was so devout in his religion, he probably wouldn't have committed the crime in the first place.

Pat Jenkins said...

incog your "when you commit a crime you relinquish your rights to special dietery concessions" is your line that sums up the whole dilemma. shouuld any prisoner be catered to, diet or otherwise, once incarserated. that is up for debate. just to probe your mind a little, do you believe ex- cons have a right to vote after serving their time?

jon said...

And Cable television.

Incognito said...

KAREN: Absolutely, with the vegan, in particular. they use no animal products at all. And I agree.. had they been that spiritually aware they wouldn't have gotten into trouble to begin with.

PAT: And no, to your first question. Prison is not some luxury camp, where you should be catered to. You are there because you committed some kind of crime. If it were less cushy, perhaps people would be less inclined to commit crimes. Man hard core career felons actually re-commit crimes because they have better lives in jail. As for whether they should be allowed to vote? Hmmm... that's an interesting question. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I think certain people can change and they deserve the chance to lead productive lives. perhaps it depends on the crime. I'm not sure about this one, Pat. Sorry.

JON: exactly! Our taxes are paying for that and so many people can't even afford it themselves. Not fair.

WomanHonorThyself said...

all of a sudden Jews and Mussslims are in the same way girl!

Pat Jenkins said...

no problem incog. i agree prison is supposed to be a punishment, therefore we hope people are wanting to get out and never return. as far as the voting, my opinion is once one has served his debt to society he or she is then permitted to enjoy what is given to all. so i may be breaking with most conservatives on this, but i believe they should regain their voting privilege.

Incognito said...

ANGEL: In my mind criminals are criminals regardless of their religious affiliation. They cease to be Jews or Muslims or Christians or Buddhists etc. they are felons, with very few exceptions.

PAT: I sort of feel the same way... they've paid they're dues and done their time.. as long as they aren't career criminals they should.

Debbie said...

Alright! Finally. I had not heard this great news. I posted on the fact that some prisons and some schools provide these special means and how crazy it is. These people are lucky to get 2 or 3 meals a day on the American's dime. They are being PUNISHED after all.

Good catch.

I'm of the opinion that prisons should be places where NO special privileges are given. The inmates should either be kept confined in their cells with no computers, no special treatment, nothing. OR, they should be put to work, growing their own food, making their own clothes, preparing their own means, everything. Imagine how much money could be saved.

Or do like one sheriff does, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or balogna sandwiches.

Guess who said...

Jews have sued, successfully, in various states to have their kosher food given to them in prison.

Why do you only mention the Muslims sueing? Dig a bit deeper with your research, you'll find some colourful stories on Jews sueing for Kosher meals. Especially the guy who was caught eating non-Kosher food on a daily basis... quite amusing.

Personally, I think anyone who is stupid enough to believe that there food needs to be prepared in a certain way, should be eaten themselves.

Frasypoo said...

So Incog,is Troika/Richard back?I was not quite sure
But I am with Karen...dont commit the crime !Maybe the food will be an incentive to stop Jewish.Muslim crime...I can hope cant I!
Incidentally i always wondered how many Indians commit crimes and when I went on the prison system it showed quite a lot of Indians who were named Jose,Pedro etc !

Incognito said...

DEBBIE: Yes, it is great news and I agree. No priviledges at all. And yes, that Sheriff is in texas and I think they live in tents?! He's amazing.

GUESS WHO: I'm sure they have, but I was commenting on the article which only mentioned the recent lawsuit by the Muslims, and I think I am clear that I don't think anyone should be catered to.. not even the veggies.

FRASY: Yes, I think so... funny you should notice. Has been a while, but had noticed some lurking. :-) about your last comment too.