This week, CLCMA was able to secure access to a religious meal plan for a client at the Indiana Department of Corrections Putnamville Correctional Facility. The inmate contacted CLCMA in January after having applied and been rejected for the Kosher meal plan because, per the rejection letter, he did not properly establish why his religious beliefs required Kosher food.
He sought Kosher food as a compromise because the prison system does not currently offer Halal food. He thoughtfully explained that he was requesting the meals as a compromise, cited several verses of the Quran regarding the importance of eating and avoiding certain foods, and specifically pointed to Surah Maidah, verse 5 which is largely understood to permit Muslims to eat meat from “people of the book,” including Jews.
This client is a devout follower of Islam and strives to follow the religion as closely as possible, even at great cost to himself. In the absence of food consistent with his beliefs, he subsisted on non-meat foods and things he was able to purchase from commissary, which led to severe weight loss for him. His hardships were further compounded during Ramadan when he was regularly served foods he could not eat, and served food at times he could not eat (i.e., after the Fajr prayer).
After a previous attempt to resolve this issue administratively, CLCMA communicated with the facility further on Wednesday and received a response the same day. In that response, prison officials explained that the reason CLCMA’s client was denied was due to a lack of explanation of why Kosher food is necessary and allowed in his beliefs. CLCMA clarified that our client did in fact do exactly what the prison had asked, in his December application. Today, we received a response apologizing for the lack of communication, approving him for the Kosher meal plan effective immediately, and requesting additional open communications regarding religious accommodations within the facility.
We commend the facility’s updated response and willingness to learn further. We are also elated that this inmate can—after several months—now be able to eat meals consistent with his beliefs as of today. CLCMA particularly commends the work of its Equal Justice Works Fellow Najmu Mohseen, whose work at CLCMA is sponsored by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. Ms. Mohseen’s diligence helped make this result possible for CLCMA’s client. CLCMA looks forward to helping other inmates achieve the same, and continuing to educate all receptive facilities.