Howard Cosby, who was sentenced in 2004 to 19 1/2 years in prison for sexual assault and other crimes, says the staff at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution in Uncasville, Connecticut is ignoring his wish to eat a vegetarian diet as a practicing Buddhist.
He claims prison officials are feeding him seafood 3 times a week, telling him the department does not consider fish to be meat.
“Clearly fish is meat,” said Jeff Kerr, an attorney for PETA working on Cosby’s behalf. “They have thoughts. They have interests. They have a central nervous system. They are not swimming vegetables.”
The animal rights organization sent a letter to prison warden Scott Erfe on Tuesday asking him to remove fish from Cosby’s diet under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The law, passed in 2000, states that, “No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution.”
Not all Buddhists are vegetarians, but Cosby practices the diet as part of his Buddhist lifestyle of nonviolence. Kerr says that is enough to meet the requirements of the federal law.
The complaint is currently being reviewed by the Department of Correction’s Religious Issue Review Committee, according to Correction Department spokesman Andrius Banevicius.
Several inmates have won similar disputes in the past with prison officials across the country. Kerr is hopeful that Cosby’s complaint can be resolved out of court, stating, “We can’t imagine they would want to make a federal case out of this,” he said. “It seems so simple to just comply with his request, as the federal law requires them to do.”
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