After' Orange is New Black': Scottish officials crack down kosher inmates

“You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s,” but you do have to be Jewish to get kosher eats these days in the Scottish prison system.

July 30, 2019 01:40
2 minute read.
‘Orange Is the New Black’

‘Orange Is the New Black’. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The seventh and final season of the Netflix series, Orange Is The New Black, about a women’s prison, was released on Friday.

The show has inspired prisoners around the world in many ways – including giving some the idea to convert to Judaism like the character Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) does, in order to get kosher meals, which inmates apparently regard as tastier than standard prison grub. In fact, so many prisoners claimed to be Jewish in one Edinburgh prison that officials have cracked down, according to a report in the British newspaper The Telegraph.

In 2014, just nine inmates in Scotland’s penitentiaries were registered as Jewish. But in the following year after season three of the series, in which Cindy converts to get better dinners and ends up embracing her newfound faith, that number shot up. In 2017, inspectors from the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) called for an “urgent investigation” after almost £1 million was spent serving specially prepared kosher meals to more than 100 prisoners.

To limit the spread of the kosher noshing behind bars, the SPS made the process of applying for kosher diets on religious grounds more stringent, and have since seen a drop in numbers.

The Telegraph reported that the number of inmates getting kosher meals at one prison, HMP Edinburgh, has fallen by three quarters and the total cost of feeding inmates at the jail dropped by £80,000 in the last year.

The total cost of feeding inmates throughout the country in this period dropped more than £90,000.

An SPS spokesman said that, “for several years, we had a number of people who claimed to be Jewish and were only able to eat a kosher diet when in all probability they weren’t. To combat this, we introduced a policy which has a more rigorous registration – and we have since, across Scotland, had fewer kosher inmates.”

Apparently, as the ad for Levy’s Jewish rye bread used to say, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s,” but you do have to be Jewish to get kosher eats these days in the Scottish prison system.

Cindy has an important arc in the final season, although it’s more to do with her family than her faith or food. No spoilers, though, for those couldn’t binge the new season yet because they were busy celebrating Shabbat.

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