Prisoner seeks to block plan to do away with kosher meals

We are all equal under the Constitution.

From: Vegas Inc.
By Steve Green
1 June 2011

Attorneys for a Nevada prison inmate filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order Wednesday in hopes of blocking the state Department of Corrections from carrying out a plan to stop serving kosher food to prisoners requesting it.

Attorneys for inmate Howard Ackerman say he’s an Orthodox Jew and that the state plans to discontinue kosher food service within all state prisons sometime this week or next week.

“This will interfere with the ability of Mr. Ackerman and similarly situated Orthodox Jews to be able to observe the tenets of their religion. This issue has been well litigated throughout the United States, including in this court, and it has been held time and time again, that such interference with a prisoner’s right to kosher food is prohibited,” said the motion filed by attorneys Jacob Hafter and Michael Naethe.

The motion was filed in U.S. District Court for Nevada in Las Vegas, where attorneys for Ackerman earlier in the day filed suit against the state. The court had not acted on the request as of late Wednesday.

The lawsuit said Ackerman is a prisoner at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City.

Attorneys for the state had not responded to the suit as of late Wednesday.

Here is the news in the Las Vegas Review Journal.

A quote from the attorney working on this case on behalf of the plaintiff:

Hafter said he understands the views of those who say people should not commit crimes if they do not want to lose their rights.

But, he responded, “Isn’t part of the purpose of being institutionalized to reform somebody?”

The lawyer said some people find religion in prison. He also said some people land in prison by unintentionally hurting someone or by being falsely accused.

“The real reason that I took this case is because what happens if, God forbid, I would wind up in prison or jail,” said Hafter, an Orthodox Jew.

“The fact of the matter is I would hope that I could practice my religious beliefs to the fullest extent that the Constitution allows.”

Hafter said Orthodox Jews believe that observance of the kosher dietary laws is “a divine commandment.”

“Judaism is a way of life,” he said. “We have laws that govern all of our actions … and no law is supposed to be more important than the other.”