Muslim Prisoners Win Right to Diet Equality

April 6, 2008


Source: The New York Times

MUSLIM inmates at the Westchester County Jail in Valhalla have won the right to be served a diet that includes meat prepared in accordance with their faith, under a settlement reached with the county last month.

Judge Richard M. Berman of Federal District Court in Manhattan approved the settlement, which stipulates the county’s obligation to serve Muslim prisoners halal meat — prepared in accordance with Islamic law — up to four times a week. That frequency matches the number of times kosher meals have long been served to Jewish prisoners, the settlement says.

Inmates’ religious and equal protection rights became the impetus for a cluster of federal lawsuits filed by Muslim prisoners against the county’s Department of Correction almost three years ago, said Richard B. Cohen, a lawyer who represented eight of the inmates.

Under the agreement, the county was not found in violation of inmates’ rights but agreed to provide the requisite number of special meals. Mr. Cohen said that satisfied the objective of his clients’ actions, which was to bring parity between offerings of kosher and halal-based meals.