Corrigan prisoner won't have to eat fish as state agrees to alternative menu

The state Department of Correction has agreed to stop serving fish to Howard W. Cosby, a prisoner at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution in Montville, who last month enlisted the help of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Cosby, 35, said he was a practicing Buddhist who had asked for a vegetarian diet but had been told that the correction department does not consider fish a meat. A PETA attorney responded that fish clearly is a meat, adding that fish have thoughts, interests and a central nervous system. The organization asked that fish be removed from Cosby's diet, citing a federal law that requires prisons to accommodate reasonable religious needs of prisoners.

Deputy Warden Giuliana Mudano wrote to PETA recently to say that the department would provide Cosby with "a nutritionally adequate substitute whenever fish would appear in his menu cycle."

The department's directives include a requirement that an inmate's diet meet "all nutritional requirements as determined by a Department of Correction licensed dietitian, without the presence of food items forbidden by religious dogma."

"I met with Mr. Cosby on Sept. 12, 2013, and he indicated that he is 'grateful and appreciative' of the change in his diet," Mudano wrote.

PETA considered the outcome a win for Cosby and for fish.

"We're very pleased that (the warden) has acceded to Mr. Cosby's legally grounded religious demands and acknowledged that fish aren't swimming vegetables," said attorney Jeff Kerr, general counsel to PETA. "Prison officials should certainly encourage an inmate's adherence to the principles of nonviolence in all forms, including regarding his or her diet."

Cosby weighed approximately 275 pounds when he was charged with sexually assaulting a 115-pound teenager he knew in July 2002 in Bridgeport, according to court records. Cosby fled after the teen reported the rape to her mother and was arrested in Rhode Island a year later. He was convicted by a jury in July 2004 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, suspended after 15 years served and 15 years probation. His sentencing also includes an additional 42 months for failing to register as a sexual offender in another unrelated case.

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