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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Florida the rules are different here Chapter XXIX

Some news from today's Miami Herald. A Broward County inmate named Ross Lawson is suing so he get kosher food in prison. Funny how Mr. Lawson takes his religion seriously. He didn't mind robbing from others in violation of the commandments, and how kosher is the coccaine he put into his body. Leaves you wondering doesn't it?

You just got to love Florida. Oi Vei!

Open Post- Bright & Early, Third World County,

Ross Lawson used to rob and terrorize strangers to support a crack-cocaine habit. Shortly before he was sentenced to life in prison, he found religion.

Born a secular Jew at Broward General Medical Center, he became Orthodox after a Surfside rabbi visited him in jail in 1997. As a member of a more traditional stream of Judaism, Lawson is supposed to eat kosher food and, at certain times, refrain from shaving or cutting his hair.

But state prison authorities have refused to accommodate him, citing, among other things, security risks inherent in beards and the high cost of bringing in prepackaged meals.

Faced with a shaven face and nonkosher food, Lawson, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, is suing the state in the hopes he can change their mind.

''Lawson sincerely believes that he is required to obey all 613 commandments encompassed with the holy Torah,'' said Justin Uhlemann, a Miami attorney representing the inmate, who is from Fort Lauderdale.

Lawson's fight comes a year after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law requiring state prisons to accommodate the religious affiliations of inmates. It's also close to three years since the state granted Allen Cotton, a convicted killer from Broward, access to kosher meals. Cotton, too, had sued the state.

Prison officials say they don't plan to make kosher meals a habit. Instead, they've instituted the Jewish Dietary Accommodations Program at a handful of the state's facilities. There, the kitchens try and keep meat and diary products separate -- a provision of kosher law. But officials concede the food doesn't meet the strict requirements of a kosher kitchen.


Premade, authentic kosher meals are expensive -- and must be supplemented with items such as fruit and diary, bringing the cost to $15 a day compared with the $2.57 it costs to feed an inmate on traditional or JDAP diets, according to Kathleen Fuhrman, nutritional program manager for the state's prison system.

But Derek L. Gaubatz, director of litigation for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group, said the state's costs are exaggerated.

''There are much cheaper ways to do it,'' said Gaubatz.

He said kosher catering companies that work with other state prisons can provide three full meals for $7 a day per person.

Air Force Lt. Col. Ira Flax, a rabbi who has worked as a consultant for the Florida Department of Corrections, disagreed with Gaubatz.

''The FDOC has bent over backwards to meet the spiritual and dietary needs of a diverse Jewish population,'' Flax wrote in a prepared statement.

''The bottom line for the department: It would be more expensive,'' added Chaplain Alex Taylor, chaplaincy services administrator for FDOC.

The beard is a security, health and safety problem, Taylor explained.

Orthodox men are supposed to shave with clippers, not razors. During certain periods, men are also to refrain from cutting their hair or beards.

''A beard provides a convenient hiding place to conceal small items,'' Taylor said. ``This can be expensive because it takes more time to search a bearded inmate.''

Right now, there are about 1,600 Jewish inmates in state prison -- about 1.8 percent of the total population, according to Taylor.

But the number who want kosher food is much less. The Aleph Institute, a Surfside group that does outreach for Jewish inmates, estimates there are only 50 Florida inmates who practice Orthodox Judaism.

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