MIAMI, Fla.—The Florida Department of Corrections has agreed to serve kosher food to Jewish inmates, ending a five-year struggle that included a recent Justice Department lawsuit against the state.
The Chabad-Lubavitch Aleph Institute, which serves the interests of Jewish inmates and soldiers around the nation, praised Gov. Rick Scott’s strong advocacy on behalf of the inmates. “The Aleph Institute and the Jewish community would like to thank Governor Rick Scott profusely for arranging that kosher food will be available to Jewish inmates in Florida,” said Rabbi Menachem Katz of the Aleph Institute.
The issue first arose when the Florida Department of Corrections eliminated its kosher food program in August 2007. At the time, an average 250 prisoners across the Florida were enrolled in the state’s kosher meal program.
A Justice Department complaint filed last year asserted that Florida’s policy since 2007 was illegally depriving Jewish prisoners of kosher meals, and violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. The act protects prisoners’ freedom of worship, which the government claims Florida ignored through a meal policy that was “not necessary to achieve any compelling state interest.” The government filed its suit against the Florida Department of Corrections for declaratory and injunctive relief in the Southern District of Florida.
On Friday, the Aleph Institute gave special thanks to Gov. Scott, who was participating in the organization's Jewish military chaplain training program, by presenting him with a plaque for championing religious freedom in Florida.
“This is a major milestone,” said Katz. “Our great country was founded on the principle of freedom to worship, and we thank the governor for his appreciation of this fundamental ideal. For the Jewish people, eating kosher is not a perk but a G‑dly commandment, and observing one’s faith goes a long way in rehabilitating inmates and integrating them back into society as law-abiding citizens.”