The ruling comes after a lawsuit filed on behalf of 13 inmates whose religious beliefs required that they maintain kosher diets. The lawsuit, filed by the US government on these prisoners' behalf,
claims that Florida’s lack of kosher meal options violates “the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 that allows prisoners to worship according to their religious beliefs,” according to the Forward.
The ruling also dismisses certain restrictions that were placed on inmates, including “zero tolerance” rules and mandatory 90 day waiting periods.
The primary concern for the state prison system, however, is financial. If enrollment stays where it was before the program was removed, then kosher food for prisoners would cost only about $1.1 million, but because of an unusually high current enrollment, the costs could rise to $54 million.
The state maintains the program is too costly, arguing that "to the extent that the FDOC's (Flordia Department of Corrections) dietary policies impose a substantial burden on a prisoner’s religious practices,
the FDOC asserts that the policies are in furtherance of compelling governmental interests in preserving the security and good order of its institutions and in allocating scarce governmental resources and that these policies reflect the least restrictive means of furthering those interests."
In response, US District Court Judge Patricia Seitz wrote that "injunctive relief is necessary to prevent irreparable harm to hundreds of Florida prisoners who believe that keeping kosher is an important part of their religious beliefs."
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life