Food at center of lawsuit
BILLINGS, Mont. — A Montana Women's Prison inmate has filed a lawsuit claiming state corrections officials are violating her religious freedoms by not providing her with kosher foods.
Shelley Tischler filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Billings against the Department of Corrections, the Montana Women's Prison, Warden Jo Acton and others.
Tischler, 57, is serving a 20-year prison term for a fatal drunken driving crash in Ravalli County. She has been held both at the prison in Billings and at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs.
The lawsuit said Tischler has been able to buy her own kosher foods for observance of Jewish holy days at the women's prison, but administrators at the state hospital denied her the ability to have or order kosher food when she was there from September 2009 through March 2010, saying "this accommodation is not occurring at other DOC facilities."
Her lawsuit said that officials said at one point that foods could be prepared in a "kosher manner" at the women's prison, but Tischler said that was not an acceptable alternative.
She is seeking a jury trial, punitive damages and an injunction requiring the defendants to provide her and other Jewish inmates with kosher foods, at a minimum on holy days, and more frequently, if wanted.
Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Anez said the agency could not comment because it had not seen the lawsuit. He said the department would respond to the allegations in court.