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U.S. judge rejects Steven Hayes’ motions in kosher prison food lawsuit

(JTA) – A federal judge in Connecticut rejected motions by death row inmate Steven Hayes, who is suing the state for not providing him with kosher prison food.

U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Thompson in his ruling issued last week said Hayes, who was convicted in the 2007 murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, receives meals that are certified by two rabbis who monitor the preparation of kosher food in the state’s prison system, The Associated Press reported.

In his lawsuit filed in August, Hayes said that the state’s Dept. of Corrections was not serving him kosher food. Hayes had requested a trial by judge and asked for an injunction ordering the Dept. of Corrections to provide pre-packaged kosher meals to all Jewish prisoners in the state’s prisons. He also sought $15,000 in punitive and compensatory damages for “intentional infliction of pain, suffering and resulting weight loss from the deliberate denial of a kosher diet.”

An amended complaint filed earlier this month said he has not eaten any non-kosher food since Aug. 24 and is now down to 120 pounds. In the lawsuit, Hayes describes himself as an Orthodox Jew and says he has been asking for kosher food since May 2013. He said that the prison’s kitchen is not certified to provide strictly kosher food and that the staff told him the food served at the prison is “kosher-like.”

Hayes accused the state of violating his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion by preventing him from eating kosher food and his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

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