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ACLU says DOC should be held in contempt over kosher meals

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is asking a federal judge to hold the state’s Department of Correction in contempt for not offering inmates kosher meals as it had been ordered to do a year ago.

On behalf of four Indiana prisoners, the ACLU-Indiana filed a motion Thursday in the case of Matson Willis, et al. v. Commissioner, Indiana Department of Correction, et al, No. 1:09-cv-815 JMS-DML, alleging that the DOC isn’t complying with a December 2010 decision by U.S. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson requiring that kosher diets be provided to prisoners whose religious beliefs require a kosher diet.

The motion comes after Magnus-Stinson’s ruling last year that state prison officials were violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by denying the kosher meals to inmates who requested them. The class-action lawsuit against the DOC commissioner, the religious services director and officials at the Miami Correctional Facility was filed after grievances by Matson Willis, an Orthodox Jew who kept kosher, were denied.

The DOC claimed it had a compelling government interest to keep costs down and that is why it stopped serving kosher meals, but the federal judge disagreed. Willis and others were awarded nominal damages in the amount of $60 and the DOC was ordered to provide “certified kosher meals to all inmates who, for sincerely held religious reasons, request them in writing.”

Although the DOC appealed, the state dropped that appeal before the 7th Circuit in May after the DOC agreed to start offering kosher meals to inmates.

That is not being happening, according to ACLU-Indiana legal director Ken Falk. He said the prisoners seeking enforcement of the court’s judgment have diverse religious beliefs and reside in correctional facilities in Michigan City, Pendleton and Putnamville.

“The court's judgment in this case is clear, and the DOC is not free to disregard it,” Falk said. “The DOC does not have the right to deny these prisoners an intrinsic element of their religious beliefs.”
 

 


 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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