Colorado Agrees to Restore Jewish Prisoner's Kosher Diet in Response to ACLU Lawsuit

October 13, 2005 12:00 am

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COLARADO SPRINGS — In response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado the Department of Corrections (DOC) has agreed to resume providing kosher meals to Timothy Sheline, a Jewish prisoner whose kosher diet was revoked for one year as punishment for allegedly violating a minor dining hall rule.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sheline on October 11, charging that officials unjustifiably revoked his kosher diet because a guard in the dining hall reported that Sheline was caught taking two packages of butter and two packages of salad dressing from his food tray and putting them in his pocket.

According to the lawsuit, Sheline has been struggling since April to survive on a severely restricted diet consisting of the few kosher foods he is able to purchase at the prison canteen with his meager funds. As a result, he has lost over 30 pounds on a diet consisting almost entirely of peanut butter and crackers.

“”DOC officials deserve praise for quickly taking action to restore Mr. Sheline’s ability to eat in the prison dining hall without violating his sincerely held religious beliefs,”” said Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado. “”We were ready to ask the court for an emergency injunction this week if Mr. Sheline’s kosher meals were not restored right away. The DOC’s prompt action now makes this unnecessary.””

Restoring Sheline’s kosher meals resolves the most pressing issue in the lawsuit, Silverstein said, but it does not resolve the entire case. “”The lawsuit also challenges the DOC regulation that authorizes DOC officials to revoke prisoners’ right to a religious diet for unjustifiable reasons and without due process,”” Silverstein said. “”Today’s action was a good first step, but problems with the DOC’s regulation remain unresolved.””

In its lawsuit the ACLU charged that the department’s policy violates the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a federal statute enacted in 2000 which strengthens legal protections for prisoners’ religious activities.

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