Saturday, June 11, 2011
Temporary agreement reached in Orthodox Jewish inmate's suit over kosher meals in Nevada
LAS VEGAS — An Orthodox Jewish inmate at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City will continue to be able to eat kosher meals under a temporary resolution of his lawsuit.
Howard Ackerman filed a class-action suit last week in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, alleging the Nevada Department of Corrections violated his First Amendment rights with its decision to end kosher food options for inmates. He also filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order.
At a hearing Friday before U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro, attorneys involved in the case said they reached an agreement that eliminated the need for a restraining order.
Under the agreement, prison officials will give 30 days' notice before implementing a new menu and will continue to offer a choice of kosher meals to inmates, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
The judge scheduled a Dec. 15 hearing to check on the status of the case.
Attorney Jacob Hafter, who represents Ackerman, said corrections officials announced their decision to end kosher food options for prisoners in December. The decision also affected observant Muslims, who rely on a kosher diet to meet religious requirements, he said.
"Inmates are going to get their kosher food and be able to continue to exercise their constitutional rights," Hafter told the Review-Journal after the hearing.
Greg Cox, acting director of the Department of Corrections, attended the hearing but declined to comment afterward.
Those who adhere to a kosher diet do not eat pork, shellfish or certain birds. Also, meat and dairy products may not be eaten together. While fruits and vegetables are kosher, they may not come into contact with nonkosher food, utensils and dishes.
At least two other Nevada inmates have filed similar lawsuits over the last decade. In both cases, prison officials agreed to provide the requested food.
Ackerman, 50, was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole in a kidnapping case.