update deskJewish & Israeli Culture

Jewish prisoners granted rights to kosher meals in Michigan following lawsuit

The proposed settlement rules that Jewish inmates who keep kosher can receive meals prepared in a certified kosher kitchen within the facility or from certified kosher meals from a third-party vendor.

A Michigan Department of Corrections officer. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
A Michigan Department of Corrections officer. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

A proposed settlement reached on Oct. 12 in a class-action lawsuit allows Jewish inmates in Michigan prisons to start receiving certified-kosher meals, The Jewish News reported.

The lawsuit was handled by the Civil Rights Clinic at Michigan State University, led by Professor Daniel Manville, who said, “We got the entry for preliminary approval and the notices will begin going up in the 16 Michigan prisons that house Jewish inmates.”

Manville, an ex-inmate and advocate for prisoners’ rights, has been working on this case since 2013.

In the past, Jewish prisoners requesting kosher meals have been given vegan dishes, but they lack kosher meat and dairy prepared in ways that adhere to Jewish law, such as prohibitions regarding contamination with non-kosher utensils.

The proposed settlement, which is subject to a fairness hearing on Dec. 11 in front of U.S. District Judge Linda Parker in Detroit, rules that Jewish inmates who keep kosher can receive meals prepared in a certified kosher kitchen within the facility or from certified kosher meals from a third-party vendor, wrote The Jewish News. Prisoners not already approved for kosher meals can become eligible by adhering to a strictly kosher diet for 60 days.

Whether Jewish prisoners will receive kosher meat and dairy meals 56 days a year (during Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shavuot) is still in dispute and just litigated early this month, “although all parties have agreed to at least one cheesecake per year [for the dairy-oriented holiday of Shavuot],” said Manville. “We expect a ruling on that early next year.”

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