Lawsuit: Kosher Minneapolis man fed 'pork byproducts' in South Dakota prison

We don't know which part of the pig South Dakota allegedly fed James Dale, but you can probably use your imagination.

We don't know which part of the pig South Dakota allegedly fed James Dale, but you can probably use your imagination. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Here's something you never hear: "Mmmm, I just love the flavor. Is that... is that pork byproduct I'm tasting?"

Then again, maybe it's just that no one cares to ask how their dish attained its porcine qualities. One Minnesota man who recently completed two stints in South Dakota prisons did care, and a lot. Back home in Minneapolis, James Dale had eaten kosher, following the Jewish diet that prohibits consuming pork, among other restrictions.

Dale's imprisoners knew that, according to a lawsuit Dale filed against the state of South Dakota, but failed to live up to his convictions, serving him rice with "pork flavoring and byproducts," the Rapid City Journal reports

What's a "pork byproduct," you ask? (Did you have to?) Consider the old adage that slaughterhouses use "everything but the curl in its tail and the squeal," make the setting a Midwestern prison -- in a state that's only just coming around to spending money on teachers, let alone prisoners -- and your imagination should fill in the rest.

Dale, who now resides in Faribault, received his first South Dakota prison sentence for burglary, and  his second for a parole violation. The first sentence started in 2002, and the second ended in 2017.

Dale also says workers told him they used the same knives on his food as they'd used to cut pork, and that the kitchen was not "certified by a Rabbi" as properly kosher. 

And while Dale's at it? The food sucked: "slimy vegetables and fruits, and stale, sometimes moldy peanut butter." If there's not a religion that counts crisp veggies and decently maintained peanut butter as foundational beliefs, there ought to be.

A judge decided earlier this month that Dale's civil rights lawsuit, which claims the prison's food services violated his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, will go before a jury on September 18. 

Dale's lawsuit was partially informed by the timing of his sentences. Before 2006, he claims, kosher prisoners got better meals -- "rye bread, beef or chicken stews and prepackaged peanut butter" -- than the general population. So inmates started claiming they, too, were Jewish, to reap the rewards of the kosher service. 

In response, the prison worked to improve the quality of its non-kosher meals.

Just kidding! Of course it didn't. Dale says staff started "retaliating" by segregating inmates during meals, and eventually just making the kosher offering far worse. As he wrote in his affidavit: "The rice is the same day in and day out."

If jurors agree that the state did wrong by Dale, it could be a costly mistake: He's seeking $201 per non-kosher meal he was served, or around $600 for each day he was in prison. At that price, South Dakota might as well have served Dale bagel-and-lox for breakfast, steak for dinner, and champagne all day.