Herald News – October 19, 2005
Jail ends kosher and halal meals
By KAREN KELLER
The Passaic County Jail has stopped serving halal and kosher meals to inmates, breaching federal immigration detention regulations.
An internal jail memo dated Monday stated, "As of 10/17/05 there will be no more kosher meals. The religious diet tray will be a vegetarian diet tray." Four inmates, all federal immigration detainees, said the memo was passed out to them.
The change in food service at the jail comes during Ramadan, Muslim's holy month, and also as the jail is being audited by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General on complaints by immigration detainees of poor conditions and abuse.
The audit, which began in July, had halted when Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale ejected federal investigators from the county jail, accusing them of arrogance and incompetence. The auditors were allowed back in last week, and are continuing their investigation this week, said Bill Maer, spokesman for the Sheriff's Department.
The food memo prompted a hunger strike of about 20 inmates, the immigration detainees said in interviews Tuesday. The jail had been serving halal meals for only the past four months, the detainees said. For up to two years before that, the jail served no halal meals, said Peter Ali, a Muslim detainee from British Guyana.
Muslims are the biggest group of federal immigration detainees at the jail that request special meals, said Maer.
The Passaic County Jail, like all federal immigration detention centers, is required to provide food that is prepared according to religious customs, said Tim Counts, a spokesman for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security….