More than 100 prisoners at an Edinburgh prison are claiming to be Jewish so they can eat better-quality kosher meals, an official inspection report has revealed.
The trend, which is costing HMP Edinburgh vast sums of money, is believed to have been sparked by an episode of the popular US prison drama Orange Is The New Black.
Around 13 per cent of the 870-capacity jail’s population is currently on a kosher diet, which is four times more expensive than the regular menu, the report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) says.
In an episode of Orange Is The New Black which aired in 2015, character Cindy Hayes converts to Judaism as she believes she will get “better quality food” as a result. Kosher food outlaws pork and shellfish and means than meat cannot be prepared next to dairy products.
While regular prison meals cost around £2, the kosher option costs the prison almost £8.
Inspectors said the significant additional cost meant that the trend should be investigated “with some urgency” by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS).
“It was noted that a significant number of prisoners had decided to move onto a kosher diet, which did not appear to be for wholly faith based reasons,” the HMICS report states.
“Given the significant additional expenses of providing this diet, over four times as expensive as the daily food allowance for each prisoner, the SPS should seek to understand the underlying reasons for this development in order to address this situation with some degree of urgency.”
It adds: “The most popular non-standard diet by far was kosher. “At the time of inspection 111 prisoners received a kosher diet, which equated to approximately 13 per cent of the overall prison population. “This, we were informed, was due to increase by a further 10 the following week. “SPS and prison management need to review this situation with some urgency to understand the reason why so many individuals are opting out of eating from the main menu options in such numbers.” A prison source who has worked at the jail since 2010 said the situation was “verging on the ridiculous”. “The number of Jewish prisoners is negligible – I think we had two in 2014,” he told the Daily Mirror newspaper. “Ever since one guy converted to Judaism we’ve seen a huge rise in the number claiming to be Jewish as they saw the meals were better. “It’s about time someone saw through this farce and did something about it, but I can see what will come next, we’ll get accused of religious discrimination if we stop their meals.”