NY Times Captive diners know that a good meal is hard to find.
Airplane passengers, for instance, have been known to order kosher meals, even if they are not Jewish, in the hope of getting a fresher, tastier, more tolerable tray of food. It turns out that prison inmates are no different.
Florida is now under a court order to begin serving kosher food to eligible inmates, a routine and court-tested practice in most states. But state prison officials expressed alarm recently over the surge in prisoners, many of them gentiles, who have stated an interest in going kosher.
Their concern: The cost of religious meals is four times as much as the standard fare, said Michael D. Crews, who is expected to be confirmed as secretary of the Department of Corrections in March.
“The last number I saw Monday was 4,417,” Mr. Crews said of inmate requests at his recent confirmation hearing before a State Senate committee. “Once they start having the meals, we could see the number balloon.”
To which, Senator Greg Evers, the Republican chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee remarked: “Is bread and water considered kosher? Just a thought. Just a thought.”
Florida, a state with a substantial Jewish population and the third-largest prison system, stopped serving a religious diet to inmates in 2007, saying it cost too much and was unfair to other prisoners. Several inmates have challenged the move with little success. Last year, though, the United States Department of Justice sued Florida for violating a 2000 law intended to protect inmates’ religious freedom. The federal judge in the case issued a temporary injunction in December, forcing the state to begin serving kosher meals by July until the issue is decided at trial. Florida is one of only 15 states that do not offer inmates a kosher diet systemwide.[...]