Legislation is expected to be introduced into Congress this session which will enable Jewish inmates in federal prison to have at least one hot kosher meal daily on request, the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA), reported today.
Tentative legislation for that purpose, drafted to provide one special meal daily to meet the religious dietary requirements of inmates of all faiths, was prepared by Nathan Lewin of Washington, a COLPA vice-president, in consultation with Rabbi Henry Siegman, executive vice-president of the Synagogue Council of America, and Rabbi Herzel Kranz of Silver Spring, Md., a constituent of Sen Charles Mathias, Jr., Maryland Republican. Sen Mathias is studying the proposal for any changes he considers necessary for its introduction in Congress, according to Howard Rhine. COLPA president.
Lewin said the proposed legislation was developed to meet the needs of “the growing number of Jews who unfortunately find themselves in federal prisons and are unable to obtain kosher food and are therefore required to subsist largely on fruits and vegetables.”
He said that such prisoners “should not be required to forego a basic tenet of their religion to sustain themselves.”
200 INMATES TO BENEFIT
Lewin said the need for such a bill arose from the “peculiar nature of our times,” when those who clearly do not fit into the traditional criminal stereotype are convicted and sent to prison. He added “the fact of the matter is that those who still conscientiously adhere to religious beliefs may still run foul of the law and hence need protection.”
Lewin, a former official of the Justice and State Departments, said that despite repeated attempts to resolve the matter with Bureau of Prison officials, there had been a steadfast refusal by those officials to provide special food to inmates with dietary needs, a need, he said, which was not confined to Jews.
A COLPA source said it was estimated that the law would benefit some 200 inmates of federal prisons but that these included Moslems as well as Jews. The source said no figures were available on the number of Jewish inmates.
The source also said that Jewish federations had regularly offered to provide such kosher meals, covering the cost but that at present, such contributions are banned. That ban would be lifted by the proposed law and the federal government would cover the extra costs of kosher meals, which would be provided through appropriate Jewish agencies, presumably in the form of pre-packaged frozen meals, now widely available to patients in hospitals and to observant Jewish travelers on ships and planes.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.