Inmate sues over prison diet

by Steve Gonzalez |
Oct. 23, 2008, 12:11pm

Michael Cooper (IL DOC Photo)

A prisoner serving a ten year bit for home invasion is suing the Illinois Department of Corrections, alleging the food he is being served is unacceptable.

Michael Cooper alleges his constitutional rights are being violated because prison officials will not serve him a diet that conforms to his Buddhist beliefs.

Cooper says prison officials are violating his right of freedom of religion and equal protection.

Cooper claims members of the Jewish faith are served a diet consistent with their religious beliefs but "maliciously" refuse to provide him with a Buddhist diet or a suitable alternative forcing him to eat only bread and other non-nutritional items.

In 2006, Cooper was found guilty of home invasion in Cook County and sentenced to ten years. He is serving his time at the Big Muddy Correctional Center in Ina. In 2000, Cooper was served three years for failing to register as a sex offender and in 1997 also served three years for sexually abusing a victim between the ages of 13 and 16.

According to Cooper, the diet provided to him violates his rights to "fully and freely practice his religious beliefs."

He also claims prison officials "intimidate and threaten" him for wanting to practice the Buddhist faith in addition to treating him in a "contemptuous" manner.

Cooper is seeking a court order directing the Illinois Department of Corrections to "immediately accommodate" his right to receive diets consistent with his religious beliefs.

He also seeks compensatory damages in excess of $700,000, attorney fees and costs of the suit.

Cooper is representing himself in the case.

U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan has been assigned to the case.

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Illinois Department of Corrections

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