A Connecticut prison inmate maintains the food he’s being fed violates his religious beliefs, and he now has People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as a powerful ally in his dispute with authorities.
According to the Associated Press, Howard Cosby, sentenced to 19 ½ years in prison in 2004 for various crimes including sexual assault, is an inmate serving time at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville. He eats fish three times a week, which he says is a violation of his vegetarian diet as a Buddhist.
After Cosby’s complaints were ignored by prison authorities, who told him they did not consider fish to be meat, the 35-year-old inmate wrote a letter to PETA to raise awareness his situation.
"Clearly fish is meat," said Jeff Kerr, an attorney for PETA. "They have thoughts. They have interests. They have a central nervous system. They are not swimming vegetables."
As the AP notes, PETA sent a letter to Warden Scott Erfe asking that the fish be removed from Cosby’s diet, citing the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which prevents government institutions from imposing “a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person,” according to the text of the law.
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Kerr said Cosby has incorporated vegetarianism into his Buddhist lifestyle, despite the fact that the religion does not require it.
Kerr notes that other inmates have emerged victorious in disputes with prisons regarding their diet in years past. "We can't imagine they would want to make a federal case out of this," Kerr said. "It seems so simple to just comply with his request, as the federal law requires them to do."
According to the AP, Department of Correction spokesman Andrius Banevicius said that the matter is being reviewed by the DOC’s Religious Issue Review Committee.