(JTA) — A death row inmate is suing the Connecticut Department of Correction claiming he is an Orthodox Jew and is being denied kosher food.
Steven Hayes, 51, a convicted murderer and rapist, filed a handwritten lawsuit in federal court saying that he has been requesting kosher food since May 2013 and that he has lost weight due to its denial of kosher food, the Hartford Courant reported. Hayes is incarcerated at the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Conn.
Hayes said the state is violating his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion by preventing him from eating kosher food. He also accused the state of violating his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.
In his lawsuit, Hayes said that the prison’s kitchen is not certified to provide strictly kosher food. The kitchen staff told him the food served at the prison is “kosher-like.”
“Kosher-like is not kosher,” he said in his lawsuit, according to the Courant.
Hayes has been consulting and speaking with a rabbi, and has been asking for more time with the rabbi, according to the New Haven Register.
He is requesting a trial by judge and has asked for an injunction ordering the Department of Correction to provide pre-packaged kosher meals to all Jewish prisoners in Connecticut’s prisons. Hayes also is seeking $15,000 in punitive and compensatory damages for “intentional infliction of pain, suffering and resulting weight loss from the deliberate denial of a kosher diet.”