Jewish Inmate Sues Alabama Prison for Failing to Provide Kosher Meals

Tags: Criminal Defense

Being held in prison in Alabama or nationwide, the government has agreed to your care and safekeeping, as well as upholding certain Constitutional requirements. In a recent Alabama case, an immigrant from Venezuela who is being held in Etowah County has filed a federal lawsuit because he is not being served kosher meals as federal law mandates. According to the complaint, the detainee is an Orthodox Sephardic Jew and has requested kosher meals, but has not received them since he was transferred in March.

Under federal law, federal prisons must defer to prisoner faiths and practices. The immigration policy also makes provisions to allow for dietary restrictions based on religions practices. According to the ICE, any prisoner can provide a written policy of restrictions and meet with detention facility authorities. The lawsuit alleges that he requested kosher meals and requested to observe the Sabbath and practices other holidays, but his requests are not being met. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are experienced in providing aggressive advocacy for our clients. We are also committed to staying abreast of the legal issues that impact Alabama defendants and inmates.

Since making requests, the Jewish inmate has not received food that meets kosher requirements. His lawsuit contends that the prison is not meeting guidelines or in compliance with federal law. According to the Etowah Sheriff’s Department, all of the meals onsite are kosher. ICE representatives have not yet commented on the lawsuit; however, the agency has publicly announced its guidelines to work to ensure that detainees can practice a variety of faiths within the prison.

Under the policy, kosher foods must be prepared and ready to use with the recognized kosher certification symbol. The tenants of kosher include separation of milk and meat. Butchery must also happen humanely and according to kosher guidelines. For those who follow the kosher tradition, not knowing whether a product is kosher can be very disturbing. Items containing pork or pork product are prohibited. In the state of Alabama, kosher meat processing is not common. Those who practice kosher dietary restrictions must often go outside of the state to obtain kosher product. For some prison officials, obtaining kosher products is an objective and authorities have taken action to ensure meals are stamped with the Orthodox Union stamp.

According to the report, the detainee has been in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency since the summer of 2010. He was picked up for overstaying his visa and was arrested and shot when allegedly eluding deputies in Florida. He has continued to apply for asylum based on his faith and claims his family members were killed in an attempt to protect the family land against Chavez. He has an additional record with convictions for driving with a suspended license and trespassing. He has documents prepared for his return, but has refused to board the plane, based on the contention that he will face political and religious persecution if he were ordered to return.

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