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Matzo and bologna sandwiches are served for Passover in a Florida prison
Photo illustration by Dall-E

This article was first published by Endeavor, a newspaper at Everglades Correctional Institution in Miami in its June/July 2022 issue. Aside from the headline, it appears as it was published and has not been edited by PJP.

Back in 2015, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) reintroduced the religious diet plan (RDP)/certified food option (CFO) to the institution I was at. After a single week, I decided I had eaten enough sardines, beans and cabbage. I quit. I couldn’t handle it. I was supplementing most meals with ramen or a pack of cookies. The “diet” was costing me money! Further, the repetitive nature of the meals had driven me mad(der than usual).

This is my fourth year on the special Passover meal plan, and knowing it’s a mere week and two days per year, I both look forward to it and deeply enjoy the repetition. While matzo and bologna sandwiches may not appeal to many residents, for some 330 individuals at Everglades Correctional Institution (a little more than a sixth of us!) this is both a religious and culinary time of reflection.

Indeed, there are a few more facets to the Passover meals than just matzo and bologna. The raw broccoli, carrots and grape tomatoes make a fine salad. In fact, I think I speak for most residents when I say that all FDC broccoli should be served raw — at least Passover broccoli is still recognizable and doesn’t come with complimentary teeth-shining sand.

Bananas and oranges round out the daily meals, and the morning jam (strawberry this year!) makes breakfast, still, the best meal of the day.

This has also been the most smoothly run of all Passovers I’ve seen at ECI. Running the Passover diet participants with their dorms to the second dining hall has been a masterpiece of logistics. It allows the individuals checking the list or distributing the bags a chance to catch up. I’m sure they’re appreciative of the change.

If this one thing can be done well and properly, imagine what else could be run as smoothly here? What next?

Final Judgment: 7/10

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Justin Slavinski is a writer for Endeavor, a publication at Everglades Correctional Institution in Florida.