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Criminal Justice

Kosher food in demand among gentile Florida prisoners; $4 daily cost worries officials

Posted Jan 23, 2014 6:50 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Florida prison officials have seen an uptick in kosher meal requests, many of them from gentiles, since a federal judge’s December ruling on the issue.

The state is concerned because the meals cost more than traditional prison food, according to Michael Crews, who appeared before a state senate committee considering his appointment as corrections chief. The Tampa Bay Times and the New York Times have the story.

Crews said the state currently pays $1.52 a day to provide three meals to each inmate, according to the Tampa Bay Times account. The cost of only two kosher meals a day is about $4, and that doesn’t include the cost of microwave ovens, boxes and other expenses.

Prison officials had expected about 300 prisoners to request kosher meals, but more than 4,400 want the special meals. The kosher meals are in demand because they taste better than the traditional fare that includes "staples such as a 'meat supplement' known as PVT," the Tampa Bay Times reported.

State Sen. Greg Evers, chairman of the state senate's Criminal Justice Committee, suggested a solution, according to the New York Times account. “Is bread and water considered kosher?” he asked. “Just a thought. Just a thought.”

The News Service of Florida published a story last month on the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Seitz. At the time, the state offered kosher meals at just one prison; Seitz said the state must make the meals available to "all prisoners with a sincere religious basis for keeping kosher” by July 1.

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