NEW YORK (JTA) — A death-row inmate in Connecticut suing the state because he has not been provided kosher food filed an amended complaint noting that he has lost 50 pounds as a result of eating inadequate food.
Steven Hayes, who was convicted in the 2007 murder of a woman and her two daughters, sued the state’s Department of Corrections in August for allegedly not serving him kosher food.
The amended complaint says he has not eaten any non-kosher food since Aug. 24 and is now down to 120 pounds, The Associated Press reported. In the lawsuit, Hayes describes himself as an Orthodox Jew and says he has been asking for kosher food since May 2013.
Hayes and Joshua Komisarievsky were sentenced to death for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters during a home invasion in which two of the victims were sexually assaulted and the house was set on fire. They also severely beat Hawke-Petit’s husband, Dr. William Petit, who survived.
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. He said the kitchen staff told him the food served at the prison is “kosher-like.”
“Kosher-like is not kosher,” Hayes said in his lawsuit, according to the Hartford 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 Corrections 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.”