It’s crazy to think about the amount of work that must go into covering one’s tracks to make the Department of Corrections (DOC) appear compliant to rules and regulations of the State or Federal government in terms of prison’s nutrition or what they are serving. Or is it really as simple as having sample menus available to send out upon open records request, because who cares enough to do prison rounds making sure facilities are serving food in accordance with state’s standard based on the basic nutritional requirements anyway? I have known and supported former and current incarcerated individuals and not once have I heard them say food that they have gotten from the facilities cafeteria was “good” or at least decent.
Thus, anytime I have been told by my friend or family member something they ate was good they were referring to a meal that they themselves cooked (in a microwave) or a fellow resident with purchased food products afforded through care packages and/or commissary. As a person living in this world we grow up learning about basic food groups and the importance of each of them in terms of our health. We learn throughout life that food can either help chronic and other health conditions if following a healthy diet. We also learn how an unhealthy diet full of processed foods can cause and worsen illnesses. According to prisonpolicy.org, prisons spend about $2.45 a day to feed each prisoner and it takes about $8.12 to feed the average American a day!
These are numbers prior to the influx of food prices we have seen most recently and I ask myself, what kinds of fruits and vegetables could prisons possibly be serving 3 times a day for just 75 to 85 cents a meal per prisoner (via an article written by The Frontier about Oklahoma prison in 2020)? Seems like if personnel responsible for a prisons budget system have adequately found a way to feed a grown adult for just roughly 85 cents a meal they should be sharing that with all Americans at this time since we are all suffering from current inflations. That will never happen because the corners that are cut to trim food cost are scaling the line of inhumane. How do they keep costs so low you wonder? Well according to a current Michigan Department of Corrections resident who has spent 14 years in prison and counting (who has since been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes) says this is how, “They feed us like kids. They don’t serve us adult sized portions. We receive 1700 calories a day. We are fed the lowest grades of meat and even still the hamburger meat is cut with bread and chicken bones to stretch it.” So for instance, if they are served hotdogs for dinner each resident will receive just one hotdog. Incarcerated individuals are stuck between a rock and a hard place, the rock being prison served food, the hard place being unhealthy commissary snacks as a supplement, and with the less fortunate residents being lost somewhere in between.
“In addition to excess weight, incarcerated people suffer disproportionately from chronic health conditions. 30% of incarcerated people have hypertension, 10% heart problems, and 9% diabetes, all higher rates than the general population. As the American Heart Association’s diets for heart disease and hypertension make clear, conditions like these can be prevented or even reversed to some extent by a nutritious diet. Instead, they are made worse by menus with too much sodium and fat and not enough fiber and essential nutrients from fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.” ( via prisonpolicy.org) My guess is that the effort to save a few coins on feeding individuals sufficiently would be offset by medical cost to treat prisoners and their illnesses but wait, I’m sure health services are untimely and inadequate as well. “By ignoring the negative effects of the unhealthy prison diet on this vulnerable population, states are willingly putting them at greater risk for premature death. Each year of incarceration reduces life expectancy by two years, and this is especially true for black men.” Not to mention not every person incarcerated is GUILTY but, I’ll save that for another blog topic. However, I can’t help but wonder with the amount of grievances written, lawsuits filed (the majority are dismissed),, and leaked photos of served meals, how is this continuing to happen? How are people paying debts for crimes they may or may not have committed having years shaved off their lifespan involuntarily due to a forced diet?
It’s simple in this case, when the “RIGHT” people don’t care any and everything can happen to you without repercussions. But, isn’t that the whole point of a corrections system, to hold people accountable for their actions? If you are familiar then you will understand this, the criminal justice system is the poster child for the saying “that’s like the pot calling the kettle black.”
Written By: Sharia Legette