Indiana Correctional Facility Goes Kosher

PUTNAMVILLE, Ind. — The Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) is now providing Kosher meals to inmates who require the specially prepared, religiously appropriate fare. A recent cleansing of a designated kitchen at the Putnamville Correctional Facility (PCF), as well as the addition of some new equipment, will allow the facility to begin producing kosher meals in-house.

This cleansing involved intentionally heating all cooking and food preparation areas and surfaces with a propane torch. Applying this intense heat opens the pores of the metal and burns away any non-Kosher food residue, preparing the items and surfaces for meal preparation that is in accordance with Jewish teachings. Rabbi Menachem Fellig of Miami conducted the torching process.

"Our goal is to be open minded and accommodating for the religious beliefs of our offender population, as much as security and safety in our facility will allow us," PCF Superintendent Stanley Knight told the Greencastle Banner Graphic.

“The Indiana Department of Correction is seeing an increasing demand for kosher meals to meet a variety of religious needs. Preparing kosher meals in house will allow the IDOC to meet religious and nutritional needs in a financially responsible way,” said David Liebel, director of religious services for IDOC, in a statement.

According to the Banner Graphic, all IDOC kosher meals will be prepared using certified kosher ingredients by staff and offenders who have received specialized training. This will ensure all kosher meals meet both the religious and nutritional needs of the population.

Food prepared according to kosher standards is generally more expensive due to the ingredients used, the slaughtering processes, inspection standards and small market size. Therefore, inmates requesting kosher meals also undergo screening by an IDOC committee, as many reportedly seek the meals on the basis of quality as opposed to religious affiliation.

Citing similar concerns, prison officials in Florida stopped providing kosher meals to inmates in 2007. However, a 2013 suit by the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as a subsequent injunction, forced officials to reinstate kosher meals until the case is resolved at trial. In January 2014 the New York Times reported that kosher meals in the state cost roughly four times that of standard meals, averaging $1.54 to $7. As of April 2014 more than 3,000 inmates across the state were receiving kosher meals, and an additional 5,000 had received kosher meal approval.