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DOC drops kosher meal appeal

May 16, 2011

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the Indiana Department of Correction and other appellants’ motion to dismiss their appeal of a case in which a federal judge found the DOC violated prisoners’ rights by denying kosher meals.

In November 2010, U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ruled the DOC violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by denying kosher meals to inmates who requested them. The class-action suit against DOC Commissioner Edwin Buss; Dr. Stephen Hall, the director of religious services for the DOC; and Chaplain Merle Hodges 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’s why it stopped serving kosher meals.

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.”

The DOC and the other appellants filed their motion to dismiss May 9, which the 7th Circuit granted that same day.

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