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April 20, 2014

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Kosher meal vs. common fare in Nevada prisons

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Kristian Hammerstad

Should the state provide a separate set of meals to those with religious needs?

Howard Ackerman keeps kosher. He also kidnaps people. And now, prison is getting in the way of his religious freedom—or so says Ackerman’s attorney.

Currently, Nevada serves specialty kosher meals to prisoners who ask for them, but the state wants to transition to a “common fare” menu. According to state officials, it would cost Nevada taxpayers $3.1 million to serve a projected 559 prisoners “religious needs” meals for one year (that figure includes Jews and Muslims), while it would cost only $1.6 million to serve these prisoners food from the new menu. So Ackerman is suing.

A federal judge granted Ackerman a temporary victory, and now we’re waiting to hear whether Ackerman can band together with his fellow prisoners for a class-action lawsuit. If class-action status is granted, it’s still unclear whether the case will succeed. See, the state claims the common fare meal is kosher. (Which sucks for the other prisoners, and I say that lovingly, as a member of the tribe.) Ackerman’s lawyer says he knows the new menus aren’t kosher because they include sausage. Now, I might not be the holiest Jew in Nevada, but I do know this much: They make kosher sausage.

So before we go any further, let’s see what’s really on the table ... and while we’re at it, if the disciplinary loaf is kosher, too.

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