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Nazarite Prisoner Gets Second Bite at Dietary Complaint

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

For decades, DeAndre Williams lived as a Nazarite by eating no meat or "fruits of the vine."

It was especially difficult the last seven years because he was in prison and officials refused his request for kosher food. Instead, he scrapped together cereal, bread, fruits, vegetables, and soup to get by.

That really got to the judges of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In Williams v. Annucci, the appeals court said he deserved better.


Judge John Walker, Jr. wrote for the unanimous panel and expressed "disappointment" with the Department of Corrections.

"It has been seven years since Williams initially filed his complaint," Walker said. "During that time, the record indicates that every day, three meals a day, Williams has been forced to cobble together sufficient food to eat while adhering to his protected religious diet."

Williams, 56, alleged New York prison officials denied him his religious dietary practices. In ancient Israel, Nazarites vowed not to drink wine. In addition, Williams lived on a kosher diet.

A trial judge dismissed his case, concluding that corrections officials were justified in refusing Williams a special diet because they wanted to keep costs down. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded.

Green Haven Kosher

The DOC had claimed that providing kosher vegetarian food was "too expensive and administratively burdensome."

The appeals court didn't buy it. The judges noted that a kosher facility in Green Haven would do.

"Indeed, it appears that the systems are now in place that [DOC officials] anticipated would be too costly to build -- namely, systems for preparing food off site, individually sealing it, and then reheating it on site," Walker observed.

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