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Md. prisons to offer kosher diet

March 26, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- The case of a former Maryland Correctional Institution inmate who claims the refusal of the Maryland Division of Correction to comply with dietary kosher and medical restrictions caused him health problems now is a "moot point" because the DOC plans to begin offering kosher meals in time for Passover, the inmate's attorney and a state corrections spokesman said Thursday.

Changes in the dietary religious accommodations were not related to Richard Adelberg's case, Rick Binetti, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Thursday.

Adelberg, 51, arrived at the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown on May 27, 2008. In keeping with Division of Correction procedures as he understood them, Adelberg met with a chaplain to register his religious preference and request a kosher diet. The chaplain told Adelberg the prison did not offer a kosher diet, according to documents filed in court.

Adelberg is Jewish, and maintained a kosher diet before his time in prison and while at a jail in Baltimore County, Md., said his attorney, Larry J. Feldman.

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Feldman was informed Monday by an assistant attorney general of the DOC's plan to offer kosher meals, he said. He has written a letter to Adelberg informing him of the development.

"The case itself is going to be moot if they follow through," Feldman said.

Adelberg claims in documents filed in Washington County Circuit Court that in July 2008, he was issued a new prison handbook with a revised rule regarding religious diets.

"Religious diets will not be served: However the Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet is available to meet the needs of recognized faiths," Adelberg wrote in the documents, quoting from the handbook.

Warden Roderick Sowers denied a written request by Adelberg that the inmate be allowed to delete certain items from his diet while in the food line and substitute other available food, according to documents filed by Adelberg when appealing the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Service's decisions regarding his diet.

In addition to concerns surrounding keeping a kosher diet, Adelberg, in a letter to Sowers and other prison officials, wrote he was allergic to dairy products, tomatoes, nuts and vegetables containing chlorophyll.

Because Adelberg was unable to ask certain menu items be withheld from his tray, food he could eat was contaminated and he ended up with blisters on his chest and arms as a result of food allergies, he wrote in the letter dated Sept. 18, 2008.

Adelberg now is being held at Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Md.

The state will be offering an "expanded kosher meal on Passover," Binetti said Thursday afternoon.

Division of Correction officials also are working on plans for meals that will meet the dictates of a religious diet in the future, he said.

Binetti would not offer further details about the DOC's future plans for religious dietary accommodations.

The Herald-Mail on Wednesday filed a Freedom of Information request with the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services asking what dietary accommodations are made for inmates of various religions, including Jewish. The request also inquired about other religious accommodations made for inmates.

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