A federal judge ordered the Florida Department of Corrections to offer kosher meals to “all prisoners with a sincere religious basis for keeping kosher” by July 1, reports the Miami Herald. “Injunctive relief is necessary to prevent irreparable harm to hundreds of Florida prisoners who believe that keeping kosher is an important part of their religious beliefs,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Seitz.
The lawsuit concerns the state’s Religious Diet Program in place only at Union Correctional Institution. According to Seitz’s ruling, the state has continuously changed its timeframe for expanding the program, first saying it would be available statewide this year, then saying kosher meals would be available at five institutions next month, and then announcing an implementation date for just three of those locations. The state has maintained that it is not required to offer kosher meals under federal laws protecting religious liberty, and that offering kosher meals at every prison could become prohibitively expensive. If enrollment were the same as an old program offering kosher food, it would cost the state less than $1.1 million a year. But the Union program has an unexpectedly high enrollment, which could result in a cost of almost $54.1 million if it went statewide.