October 13, 2005
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado (ACLU) announced today that the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) had agreed to resume providing kosher meals to Timothy Sheline, a Jewish prisoner whose kosher food diet was revoked for one year as punishment for allegedly violating a minor dining hall rule.
Two days ago, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of Sheline, asserting that the DOC unjustifiably revoked his kosher diet because a guard in the dining hall reported that Sheline was caught taking two packages of butter and two packages of salad dressing from his food tray and putting them in his pocket.
“DOC officials deserve praise for quickly taking action to restore Mr. Sheline’s ability to eat in the prison dining hall without violating his sincerely-held religious beliefs,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “We were ready to ask the Court for an emergency injunction this week if Mr. Sheline’s kosher meals were not restored right away. The DOC’s prompt action now makes this unnecessary.”
Restoring Mr. Sheline’s kosher meals resolves the most pressing issue in the lawsuit, Silverstein said, but it does not resolve the entire case. “The lawsuit also challenges the DOC regulation that authorizes DOC officials to revoke prisoners’ right to a religious diet for unjustifiable reasons and without due process,” Silverstein said. “Today’s action was a good first step, but problems with the DOC’s regulation remain unresolved.”
Since his kosher diet was revoked in April, the lawsuit states, Sheline has been struggling to survive on a severely-restricted diet of the few kosher foods he has been able to purchase at the prison canteen with his meager funds. As a result, he has lost over 30 pounds on a diet consisting almost entirely of peanut butter and crackers.
The ACLU lawsuit relies on the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion and a federal statute enacted in 2000, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which strengthens legal protections for prisoners’ religious activities.