Tennessee prison inmate sues for better kosher food

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — A prison inmate in Tennessee filed an over 200-page lawsuit alleging that the prison system is trying to force him to break the Jewish laws of kashrut by providing him with substandard kosher meals.

Perry March, who has served 10 years of a 56-year sentence for the 1996 disappearance of his wife and a plot to murder her parents, filed the lawsuit earlier this month against the Tennessee Department of Correction and Aramark food service of Philadelphia in Nashville federal court, the Tennessean reported.

March, who is Jewish and is an attorney representing himself, said that prison service and the food service are deliberately discriminating against him by providing meals that are not nutritious and do not adhere to the Jewish laws regulating diet and preparation of food, according to the newspaper.

He said the soy meals being served to him are of a poor quality and that he is being offered a kosher diet plan with far fewer entree options than standard meal plans.

He blames the poor kosher options on cost cutting and “corporate greed.” Aramark took over as the prison service’s caterer a year ago.

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Tennessee is one of at least 35 state prison systems and the federal Bureau of Prisons (that) provide kosher meals to inmates, The newspaper reported citing Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm that advocates free expression of religion.

Aramark told the newspaper that registered dieticians approve the meals and that they comply with industry standards and state requirements.