Food Crime | 

Vegan double murderer sues Arkansas prison for serving him ‘soggy tofu’

Roos contends that he is a follower of Raja Yoga Hinduism, which requires him to maintain a strict “vegan diet”.

Nicholas Roos

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

A man convicted of double murder is filing a lawsuit against a US prison for serving him “soggy tofu”.

Nicholas Roos is serving a life sentence at the Varner Maximum Security Unit of the Arkansas state prison system for shooting and killing an elderly couple in a nearby town eight years ago.

He has filed a lawsuit against employees of the Arkansas prison system alleging that his religious beliefs are being suppressed in the maximum-security unit, Arkansas radio station KTLO reports.

The trial is set to begin on April 5 in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock and is estimated to take around seven days to complete.

Roos contends that he is a follower of Raja Yoga Hinduism, one of the four main disciplines in the religion, which requires him to maintain a strict “vegan diet”.

Tofu is a staple ingredient of this diet, but the way the meat substitute is served in the prison system is not up to Roos’ standards.

One of his complaints is that the tofu is not drained after it’s been frozen, causing it to be “a soggy, spongy, rubbery and virtually inedible substance” once thawed.

Roos also claims that many of the foods he is served are not vegetarian and that these meals do not allow him to maintain his health.

Additionally, he alleges that the vegan food he is “required by his belief to consume” is being prepared and served in “unsanitary conditions” infested with rodents and insects.

In his lawsuit, Roos says that prison conditions violate his religious beliefs in a number of other ways and that staff do not care about his Hindu practices.

He contends that he goes “weeks and months” without direct exposure to the sun, preventing him from paying “homage” to the sun god Surya.

He also alleges breakfast is served too early, which leaves him sleep deprived and therefore unable to meditate as required by his religion.”

Roos’ religious beliefs are likely to be challenged during the trial, particularly his claim about early breakfast hours preventing him from practicing meditation.

According to KTLO, this will be questioned by considering “does Roos as an inmate in the state prison system have a clearly established right to sleep when he wants to?”

Roos claims several violations of his constitutional rights in his lawsuit and is seeking damages in excess of $70,000 (€66,000).

He asks the court to address the complaints outlined in his suit and to mandate that the prison system accommodates his religious practices.

Roos’ lawyer has told the court there has been “no serious settlement offer” made by the prison system.

The Department of Correction staff members named as defendants have denied Roos' claims.

Roos was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2016 for shooting and killing a couple in their 70s in Midway, Arkansas one year earlier before robbing them and setting their home ablaze.

In 2020, he unsuccessfully attempted to appeal his sentence with the US Supreme Court.

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