Cafe Society

Festivus meals not likely in Denver jails

It was a Festivus miracle for one prisoner in an Orange County jail. For two months, a convicted drug dealer received meals free of the salami he didn't like by claiming devotion to Festivus, the holiday celebrated by the Costanza family on Seinfeld.

Any Denver inmates who caught wind of this story and were hoping to game the system the same way would probably be better off praying to an aluminum pole.

"I don't think it could happen in Denver," says Captain Frank Gale of the Denver County Sheriff's Department. "Generally, what happens when people claim dietary issues is there is a lag for us because there is verification. It's not going to be what they want in the end. They are getting the same food items others are getting; they're just getting them in a different way."

In California, the inmate asked for kosher meals because he said he was trying to maintain a body that might intimidate others in "the yard." But these meals are reserved for those with a religious exception, as is the case in Denver -- so the prisoner's defense attorney cited his client's belief in Festivus. As a result, the drug dealer didn't see a slice of salami for two months -- until the county finally went to court and put an end to it.

If a prisoner requested special Festivus meals in Denver, the sheriff's department has a different procedure.

"That is a religious thing, so they would have to have some kind of an identified clergyperson who would have to go through our chaplain -- who would determine if they can have special meal exceptions," says Gale. And when that clergyperson met with the department's chaplain, he or she would have to explain the exception. The chaplain is well-versed in all religions, Gale says, in order to determine if special meal requests are warranted.

Denver County prisons make meal exceptions frequently based on medical conditions and dietary specifications such as vegetarianism, Gale adds. It also serves kosher meals every day -- but unless an inmate can produce a Festivus clergyperson, he will have to deal with salami and other undesirables.

File it under feats of strength.

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Kyle Garratt
Contact: Kyle Garratt