Nevada prisoner sues for access to kosher food

A Jewish prisoner has taken legal action to prevent the shut-down of the kosher food programs in Nevada state prisons.

Attorneys for Howard Ackerman say he’s an Orthodox Jew concerned by reports that the Department of Corrections in Nevada plans to discontinue kosher food service in state prisons within the week.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Ackerman filed a class action suit claiming the prison system would be violating the First Amendment’s protection of his free practice of religion.

The 50-year-old inmate is serving a life sentence in Carson City, Nev. for kidnapping.

Chaplain Gary Friedman, chair of Jewish Prisoner Services International and communications director of the American Correctional Chaplains Association, estimates some 20,000 prison inmates nationwide falsely claim to be Jewish in order to receive kosher food, which many of them perceive as safer than non-kosher food.

Kosher meals in prison cost about $5 a day more than non-kosher, Friedman told JTA, for a total of $40 million U.S. prisons spend to serve kosher food to prisoners without valid religious claims. Those fraudulent claims hurt the legitimate ones, he says.

“We’re in an economic crisis and the correction systems are forced to cut back,” he says. “Kosher food is another expense.”