A Minnesota man who is Jewish and says he was forced to eat non-kosher foods while in a South Dakota prison will get his day in court this fall.
James Irving Dale, now of Faribault, Minn., did two tours of South Dakota prisons in Springfield and Sioux Falls between 2002 and 2017, stemming from a felony burglary conviction in Codington County and subsequent parole violation. According to court documents, back home in Minneapolis, Dale attended a synagogue and kept a kosher home, meaning he ate foods prepared according to Jewish laws.
But at Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield, Dale says cook staff with CBM Correctional Food Services provided a supposedly kosher meal comprising rice with pork flavoring and byproducts (pork is strictly prohibited in a kosher diet), slimy vegetables and fruits, and stale, sometimes moldy peanut butter. He also alleged the kitchen was not certified by a Rabbi, and food service workers told him they used knifes for swine to cut his food.
In an order issued July 5, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Piersol wrote, "It is settled law in the Eighth Circuit that a kosher diet must be provided in a prison setting."
On Sept. 18 at 9 a.m. CT in a Sioux Falls federal courtroom, Dale's civil rights action against CBM Correctional Food Services will go to trial before a jury.
According to the Religious Land Use Institutionalized Persons Act law signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000, religious accommodations, such as dietary restrictions, should be reasonably provided to inmates. Federal courts are divided on how extensive these diets should be accommodated. A dwindling number of states do not offer kosher meals.
In the July 5 order, Piersol dismissed charges against individual employees of CBM but allowed to go forward the remaining charge by Dale that his First Amendment Right to freely practice his religion was violated by the improperly prepared kosher meals.
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"Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the court concludes that there were numerous instances in which Kashrut practices were not followed in the preparation and serving of food that Mr. Dale would have eaten," Judge Piersol wrote.
In a 2014 affidavit filed along with his initial complaint, Dale says inmates prior to 2006 received a more robust kosher meal, including rye bread, beef or chicken stews and prepackaged peanut butter. But prisoners, he writes, initiated a protest in Springfield to protest meager portions by claiming the Jewish faith in order to receive the fuller, fresher meals. This, in turn, he said led to correctional officers retaliating against inmates, by segregating them during meals, and eventually opting for the more spartan food choices with less strict preparation.
In court documents, Dale says whereas other inmates have variety in their meals, especially on holidays, the kosher tray stays the same.
"(T)he rice is the same day in and day out," Dale wrote in his affidavit.
Now out of prison, Dale's request for injunction is moot. But he has asked for monetary damages, amounting to $201 per every non-kosher meal CBM served him while at the Springfield prison.
A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections declined to comment. CBM did not respond to multiple voicemails and emails.