Murder, is that really kosher?
Jail. The word jail for many can instill fear and terror at just the thought; it can be a place of internment, rehabilitation or confinement. North America is known for having some of the most advanced prison technologies of any country, placing great emphasis on the security and safety of its people, but how progressive are these jails for the people residing inside its walls? Many prisons have high standards in accommodating the very diverse needs of convicts inhabiting the facilities; of facet of these needs is religion. For a jail in Connecticut this has been a source of conflict for an entire year.
Steven Hayes, a Connecticut inmate awaiting execution for the murder and sexual assault of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters attempted to sue the department of corrections for not providing him with 100% kosher food while being incarcerated. Hayes who identifies as an Orthodox Jew filed an amended complaint on November 7th 2014 outlining what he describes as “extreme weight loss”, noting that at the beginning of his stay in 2007 he weighed 170 pounds and now weighs less than 120 pounds. Hayes attributed this weight loss to the fact that the department did not have “reliable orthodox certification that guarantees with certainty that the food and process is kosher”. Hayes began complaining in May of 2013 and noted in his most recent complaint he suffered for “almost two years of emotional injury from having to choose between following god and starving or choosing sin to survive.” Even though the department of corrections offers kosher alternatives to inmates that request it Hayes did not believe that their standard of kosher was acceptable. Additionally Hayes describes himself as being the center of religious discrimination when he was put on suicide watch while fasting during Yom Kippur last year.
The first thing that is striking about this article is the sheer irony of the situation. Hayes claims to be torn between living in sin to survive and obeying Jewish law to remain faithful to his religion. This irony is astounding because refraining from sin was clearly not a relevant forethought as he chose to participate in murder and sexual assault. Hayes claims his objections and protests to the department of corrections are all in the name of God but this is hard to believe when considering the reasons as to why he was placed in jail. This leads to the question, to what extend do people take advantage of religion?
In this case Hayes is using religion as a source of special treatment either to gain attention or for some self-serving purpose, this is not the first time Hayes has been recorded making complaints to the department, previously he had complained about the temperature of his cell. Religion became a second source of entertainment when he his other complaints weren’t being attended to. Though it is entirely possible Hayes “found God” while in prison, it seems more likely that he is taking advantage of the rights and freedoms associated with identifying within a religion. It is disappointing to see someone use religion as a source of disruption or distraction rather than for faith. Though this is not the first time ever that religion has been used to serve alternative purposes, this makes us wonder how is it possible to determine whether someone has genuine religious beliefs and is that up to us to decide?