Prison inmates claim Jewish faith for kosher meals - abc27 WHTM

York County

Prison inmates claim Jewish faith for kosher meals

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YORK, Pa. (WHTM) -

Jewish leaders in York County say there are less than a dozen Orthodox families practicing locally. Strangely enough, there are about 150 inmates inside York County prison who claim to adhere to a strict kosher diet.

Prison officials say those inmates are playing the system and it's costing taxpayers.

"We saw in January of 2013 that the food costs had elevated by about a dollar," said York County Commissioner Doug Hoke.

That extra dollar per meal, prison officials found out, was coming from a growing number of inmates who were claiming to be of the Jewish faith and therefore requiring more expensive kosher meals.

"There are dieticians that people are given, and certain meals to for certain reasons, but this is an unusual situation," he said.

It's a very unusual situation according to Linda Seligson, the cultural director at York's Jewish Community Center.

"There's not even an Orthodox congregation in York," she said from inside the center's kosher kitchen.

Keeping a strict kosher diet, Seligson said, centers around the way the animal is prepared. It means no pork, and that meats and dairy must always remain separate.

It's an around-the-clock religious conviction that officials say convicts are exploiting, perhaps because they think the pre-packaged faith-based meals taste better.

"I think probably with Passover you might find less of them being observant because that food is less tasty than the rest of the year," said Seligson.

To avoid any future confusion, Hoke says that a new policy will soon go into place, which will make sure that prisoners are of the Jewish faith when they request a kosher meal.

Doing so might not be as difficult as it sounds. Officials say they'll know if an inmate is actually serious about converting to the Jewish faith because the process can take years and requires a person to study Hebrew.

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