In Florida, under a court order to serve kosher food to eligible inmates, prison officials expressed alarm over the surge in prisoners, many of them gentiles, who have stated an interest in going kosher, the New York Times reports. Their concern is that the cost of religious meals is four times as much as the standard fare, said Michael Crews, nominee to head the corrrecions department. “The last number I saw … was 4,417,” Crews said. “Once they start having the meals, we could see the number balloon.” Sen. Greg Evers, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, remarked: “Is bread and water considered kosher? Just a thought. Just a thought.”
A federal judge is forcing the state to begin serving kosher meals by July until the issue is decided at trial. Florida is one of only 15 states that do not offer inmates a kosher diet systemwide. Kosher food in prisons has long served as fodder for lawsuits, with most courts coming down firmly on the side of inmates. As long as inmates say they hold a sincere belief in Judaism, they are entitled to kosher meals, even if it takes a little chutzpah to make the request. “Florida is an outlier,” said Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “It's a holdout. I don't know why it's being a holdout. It is strange that Florida, of all places, is placing a special burden on Jewish inmates. It's just stubbornness.” In Florida's prison system, which faces a $58 million deficit, money is the easy answer for the battle against kosher food.