Katz said it costs about $2 a day to feed prisoners a standard diet, about $4.50 for kosher. He estimates there are 400 Jews in Florida lockups, not all of whom would demand kosher food, which many Florida county jails provide as a matter of policy.
Rich, who turns 65 in June, has had to buy certified kosher products from the prison canteen, like canned tuna and crackers, to maintain a ritually correct diet, said Goodrich.
“He’s lost a lot of weight,’’ he added.
A jury found that the debt-ridden Bruce Rich killed his parents, a North Miami Beach couple in their 70s, so he could inherit their $215,000 Keystone Point home.
At the time, 1995, Rich still owed $29,000 to the U.S. Attorney’s Office from a 1980s insurance-fraud scheme in which he tried to fake his own death. He ended up serving time in federal prison.
But the issue is much bigger than Bruce Rich, said Katz.
“There are people incarcerated for DUI, bad checks, driving with suspended license. Just because they made a mistake, why should some shlub driving on an expired license be denied his religious rights? Why is the state government standing in the way of that? They would never dare deny a Muslim [ritually correct] halal food in Guantanamo, but a Jewish inmate in Florida they deny?’’
Katz said the state has been providing prepackaged kosher food to inmates at the South Florida Reception Center through a “pilot program’’ allowing him to verify kosher certification. He added that Aleph was on the verge of launching a kosher kitchen at one South Florida lockup, but the Department of Corrections last week put it on hold.
Katz acknowledges that non-Jewish inmates or Jews who aren’t observant might try to game the system for what they believe is better food, but said there are safeguards. For example, he monitors some inmates’ canteen purchases, including Bruce Rich’s, to make sure “they’re not buying ham sandwiches.’’
When he considers an inmate request for kosher, “they have to at least be able to explain what kosher is. If you can’t articulate it, how can you demand it?’’
Goodrich said the federal system has religious diet standards, the baseline being “sincere religious belief.’’
“If you’re on the kosher diet and you get caught [with non-kosher food], you’re suspended [from the kosher program].’’
Rich, like inmates of other faiths, became more devout behind bars than he ever was on the outside, said Katz, and he’s just one of many.
Most probably weren’t kosher before prison, but Katz noted that “there are different levels of kosher,’’ such as keeping the dietary laws at home but not in restaurants, or foregoing pork and shellfish but using dishes for meat and dairy interchangeably.
Katz said that when Gov. Rick Scott attended a ceremony for war veterans at The Shul in January, they discussed the corrections department’s opposition to the policy.
According to Katz, Scott said, “ ‘I understand the importance of this and I want this to happen.’ We gave him a plaque for defending religious rights.’’