World Bulletin/News Desk
Hundreds of Florida prisoners have been forced to choose between starving or violating their religious beliefs since the state stopped offering kosher meals in its prisons, the U.S. Justice Department said in a lawsuit.
The federal government filed suit against the Florida Department of Corrections in U.S. District Court in Miami on Tuesday, accusing the state of violating prisoners' religious rights by ending its kosher meal service in 2007.
"Because there is pending litigation, we are not able to make any comments," a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections said on Friday.
Florida holds more than 100,000 prisoners at 146 prisons, work camps and work-release centers and has an annual corrections budget of $2.4 billion.
Until 2007, prisoners who wanted kosher meals were assigned to one of 13 facilities, where about 250 at a time opted for meals prepared under Jewish dietary guidelines.
Those rules, which exclude pork and avoid mixing meat and dairy, also satisfy or exceed the food preparation requirements for other faiths, and the participants included Muslims and Seventh-day Adventists, according to a study group commissioned in 2007 to advise the Florida Department of Corrections.
That Religious Dietary Study Group, which included a rabbi, an imam and legal experts, said the additional expense of providing kosher meals to 250 prisoners was about $146,000 a year. It warned that ending the kosher meal program could violate the law by denying inmates the right to exercise their religious obligations.
"He may either eat the non-kosher food and fail to obey his religious laws or not eat the non-kosher food and starve," the study group said.
Florida ignored the advice and ended the system-wide kosher meal program in 2007. Since 2010, it has provided kosher meals only to about a dozen prisoners at one facility near Miami, but that program is only open to prisoners who are at least 59 and eligible for assignment to a work squad.
The Justice Department lawsuit said consuming a kosher diet is a fundamental tenet of Judaism and other religions practiced by Florida prisoners.
"By refusing to offer kosher meals, the Florida Department of Corrections forces hundreds of its prisoners to violate their core religious beliefs on a daily basis," it said.
The Justice Department said the federal prisons and those in most other states do offer kosher meals to all prisoners with a religious basis for keeping kosher.
Florida prisoners can choose between meat and meatless entrees and can request vegan meals. Florida prisons also offer diets tailored to special medical needs, such as a prenatal diet, a liquid diet or a diet for those with kidney impairment, but none of the options is kosher.
Protests taking place across globe as US turnout rivals Trump inauguration crowd
With women's empowerment a key factor in shaping the future, thousands of women and men in Washington are joining hands in solidarity with sister marches around the world to promote rights for women
Defense minister sends welcome message to Turkish President ahead of his official Africa tour
An EU summit in December called for increasing support to the Libyan coast guard, which the EU began training and equipping last October.
A group of Israeli settlers were rescued by the mayor of a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank
Published moments after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, a statement on the White House website said that the US will develop a "state-of-the-art missile defense system" to defend against attacks from Iran, North Korea and others.
The meeting aims to discuss the six-year conflict in Libya, which fell into turmoil since 2011
Two men and two women were rescued alive in the the early hours of Saturday.
Earlier this month the prime minister reshuffled his cabinet to align better with the incoming US administration.
Billed as a "counter-summit", organisers of the European Nationalists have said the parties would use the event in the historic Rhine river city of Koblenz to set out their joint "vision for a Europe of freedom".
Foreign Ministry statement says Gambian people showed 'prudent stance' during political crisis
Shuwail had served as Libya’s interior minister from October 2012 to May 2013
Trump also will focus on removing hurdles to domestic energy development that he argues will make the US independent of foreign oil.
The UN Security Council last year extended the mandate of UNAMID until the end of June 2017 over fierce opposition from the government in Khartoum.
Tzipi Livni was expected in Brussels on 23 January for a conference at the European Parliament, but pulled out citing illness however was not too ill to speak to the New York branch of the Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday.
Trump has vowed to build a wall on the border with Mexico to keep out undocumented immigrants and to revise trade deals to protect US jobs.