Councilman David G. Greenfield is working with the New York Board of Rabbis to convince the city to require a higher level of kosher certification standard when seeking a new vendor to provide kosher food in detention facilities run by the New York City Department of Corrections (DOC).
After hearing shocking stories from constituents about Orthodox Jewish inmates not being provided access to glatt kosher food, Greenfield met with Commissioner Dr. Dora Schriro and other DOC officials to discuss the situation and work on a resolution. Greenfield also wrote to Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) Commissioner Edna Wells Handy to request that the city follow the examples set by the State and Federal government, both of which require that kosher food served in prisons meets the certification standards followed by the majority of the Orthodox Jewish community.
“Everyone has the right to practice their religion freely and without government intrusion. This extends to those who are incarcerated in city facilities. Nobody should be forced to choose between eating and following their religious beliefs. It is exactly in challenging areas like our prison system that shows whether we are doing enough to protect an individual’s religious rights. That’s why I will continue working with the appropriate city agencies to make sure that we have glatt kosher food available for all inmates who require it in city jails,” said Greenfield.
The city currently follows a lower standard for kosher food certification that does not meet the requirements of most Orthodox Jewish individuals who are incarcerated here. This means those individuals might not eat for several days. In response, Greenfield asked DOC Commissioner Schriro and DCAS Commissioner Wells Handy to require that the winning bidder meet acceptable kosher certification standards like those outlined by the federal government. These include agencies such as Union of Orthodox Congregations (OU), Organized Kashrus Laboratories (OK), Star K, K’hal Adas Jeshurun (KAJ) and others outlined in the Federal Bureau of Prisons Religious Certified Food Products Specification Quote Sheet.
The DOC manages several jails in the five boroughs, including the famed Rikers Island. All of these facilities are temporary holding facilities for defendants who are awaiting trial or have been sentenced to one year or less in jail. More than 100,000 prisoners go through Rikers Island each year on charges ranging from relatively minor infractions to major crimes including murder.
(YWN Desk – NYC)