Friday, May 13, 2016

Starving prisoners for profit

I was doing my usual grading procrastination (yes, it's finals) and came across this :
Inmates at the Gordon County Jail in Calhoun, Ga. — according to a preliminary investigation by human rights attorneys last fall — are starving. The two meals a day weren't enough to sustain them, and some reportedly resorted to eating toothpaste and toilet paper. Inmates at the Montgomery County Jail in New York alleged that meager portions led to increased violence among the inmates; one inmate lost 90 pounds in less than six months. And a group of prisoners at the Schuylkill County Prison in Pennsylvania filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming the portions they received are “not even enough to fill a 5-year-old child.”
Nutritional standards at state and local facilities are governed by a patchwork of state laws, local policies, and court decisions. A Texas law requiring inmates be fed three times in 24 hours, for example, only applies to county jail inmates, not state prisoners. Some jails and prisons require low-fat or low-sodium diets, while others mandate inmates receive a certain number of calories. All detention facilities must have a licensed dietician review their menus in order to be accredited by the American Correctional Association. The association recommends — but does not mandate — that prisons offer inmates three meals a day.
Budget-conscience legislators in a number of states, however, have proposed reducing the minimum number of meals down to two per day, and prison officials are increasingly outsourcing food service to private contractors to slash food costs.
For example, enjoy the Maricopa County cuisine:
In Arizona’s Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has bragged about his cost-cutting measures, which include removing all meat from the menu (replaced with soy) and only serving meals twice a day. The meals cost between 15 and 40 cents apiece, the “cheapest meals in the U.S.,” according to Arpaio’s official biography. In 2013, Sheriff Arpaio tweeted the cost and calorie count for a special, and more expensive, Thanksgiving meal for inmates. 
Frugal administrators can find further savings and put the leftover funds to good use:
In Morgan County, Ala., federal authorities jailed Sheriff Greg Bartlett in 2009 after he admitted to depositing over $200,000 in state money allocated for prison meals into his personal account (in Alabama, sheriffs can keep excess state funds provided to pay for prisoners’ food). Some of the inmates sued, claiming they weren’t being fed adequately, and according to court records, the sheriff admitted he “could double the food portions served to inmates… without significantly increasing his food expenditures.” Court records outlined the “typical” meals that were served during Sheriff Bartlett’s tenure. 
Remember, as well, that much of the food is inedible by most standards: rancid, foul, spoiled---you get the picture and can only imagine the smell. This however allows prison systems, or their private, for profit contractors, to make money by selling food at its commissaries to its starving prisoners lucky enough to have families which deposit money into their accounts (money these families can scarcely afford).  Ramen noodles a bargain in Mississipi, at only 50 cents a packet (of course, these noodles retail at around 10-12 cents at supermarkets.)

eta update: Prisoners in Alabama, striking over unpaid labor and living conditions, report being starved in retaliation.

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