VT. Supeme Ct to Hear Arguments in Prison Food Case

Arguments in Inmates vs. Nutraloaf (not the real case name but the court's website is down and I can't find the real one)will be heard tomorrow by the Vermont Supreme Court. It's a class action case brought by inmates to halt the practice of feeding nutraloaf as punishment to prisoners who misbehave.

When shooting suspect Christopher Williams acted up in prison, he was given nutraloaf — a mixture of cubed whole wheat bread, nondairy cheese, raw carrots, spinach, seedless raisins, beans, vegetable oil, tomato paste, powdered milk and dehydrated potato flakes. Prison officials call it a complete meal. Inmates say it's so awful they'd rather go hungry.

Here's a recipe for Nutraloaf: [more]

6 slices whole wheat bread, finely chopped
4 ounces imitation cheddar cheese, finely grated
4 ounces raw carrots, finely grated
12 ounces spinach, canned, drained
2 cups dried Great Northern Beans, soaked,
cooked and drained
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 ounces potato flakes, dehydrated
6 ounces tomato paste
4 ounces raisins

It makes three loaves.

From an earlier post of mine on the topic:

Some say it's worse than solitary confinement. An inmate in Illinois sued over the loaf, and lost.

If you really want to feel queasy, read about how they prepare the food in LA's county jails.

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    Oh for God's sake, (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Gabriele Droz on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 07:07:56 PM EST
    don't we all know by know that more punishment creates more hate?

    I was a physically AND emotionally abused child.  The more I got punished, the more I hated the "other side".

    This is NO way to solve crime problems.  Why is it that the US constantly looks for new "punishments" to stop "misbehavior", instead of looking for root causes?

    The only reason I didn't end up in prison myself, after the abuse, and skating in the no-where-land of both sides, is because of a few people who gave me love, stuck by me, and told me that I was NOT a bad person.

    This kind of strategy WORKS.  The other eternal and evermore punishment creativity - not so much.

    I'm sorry... (none / 0) (#18)
    by white n az on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 07:40:50 PM EST
    I don't have much to offer to you for your past but I hope that you have found peace.

    As for recidivism...America gave up on solving recidivism - that's why they invent things like 3 strikes rules, mandatory sentencing, etc.

    But this cuts to some of the things that Jeremiah Wright was preaching about because clearly blacks and hispanics are incarcerated at much higher rates and crime in America still exists and rarely goes down.

    We have lost all ability to examine the stupid things that we do.


    I don't disagree with what you are saying. (none / 0) (#25)
    by Gabriele Droz on Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 03:31:28 AM EST
    But I do disagree with Obama putting himself out as a uniter, when he's obviously not uniting us.

    Prisons aren't the place to get fed well (none / 0) (#1)
    by zyx on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 04:09:05 PM EST
    seems, from what I hear.

    When I lived in Texas there was this big VitaPro scandal.  Now, in Oregon, there is some vendor/prison/fraud scandal that has to do with nasty food or something.

    I don't imagine that prison food is good anywhere, even compared to the punishment loaves described in these tales you cite.

    "It ain't the Hilton." (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 04:10:42 PM EST

    Should add that I once asked an (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 04:14:56 PM EST
    inmate who was supposed to have a hi protein diet if he could select from various offerings.  He looked at the two correctional officers, all smiled, and he sd., "no."  The whole meal appears on a single plate.

    Ignoring (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Claw on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 09:24:09 PM EST
    The cruelty of serving inmates terrible food, it's also simply a bad idea from a prisoner control standpoint.  I'm told by a JAG friend that the best food served in the armed forces is served on submarines.  Why?  It keeps moral high and lowers the likelihood of misbehavior.  I'm sure the same psychological/physiological principals would apply to someone in prison.  Keep 'em happy (relatively speaking) and well fed, and you'll have fewer disciplinary problems.

    Except (none / 0) (#29)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 02:30:00 PM EST
    Bad food is cheaper and most of what prison is about is money. Moving more money into the right pockets is facilitated by prisoner unhappiness. If the prisoners were happy and under control less money would have to be spent on controlling them.

    For example, happy prisoners would need less supervision.


    Well, yes (none / 0) (#30)
    by Claw on Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 03:02:31 PM EST
    That's true.  My point was that happy prisoners would and do require less supervision.  I wasn't trying to adress the big business aspect of prions.
    There's also the fact that this country has kind of a cruelty fetish.  The Nancy Grace-style pundits salivate over what happens to inmates (rape, physical abuse, etc.).  

    "Prions," Jeez (none / 0) (#31)
    by Claw on Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 03:04:21 PM EST
    I meant PRISONS...but you gotta watch out for those prions, too.

    That sounds vile (none / 0) (#4)
    by andgarden on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 04:15:52 PM EST
    but I can actually imagine someone liking it.

    Me too. It doesn't sound all that bad except for (none / 0) (#17)
    by derridog on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 07:39:21 PM EST
    the fake cheese.  At least,
    it has fairly healthy ingredients.  It's probably better for them than feeding them Big Macs. I doubt it would win many prizes for tastiness, though.

    I swear (none / 0) (#23)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 09:49:42 PM EST
    I lived with someone who made that for dinner.

    There's worse in Florida and Arizona... (none / 0) (#5)
    by tbetz on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 04:20:38 PM EST
    ... where green bologna is standard fare.

    At least this loaf, when properly prepared, is nutritious.

    Correction to the Arizona comment (none / 0) (#21)
    by delandjim on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 09:32:14 PM EST
     It is not all of Arizona, it is Maricopa County. Sheriff Joe Arpiao.

    By the way, the nutraloaf is served in his jails too.

    I actually think the 'green bologna' is exaggerated. I know several officers there and it is rarely moldy (green) and if it is they can get a different 'ladmo' food bag.


    Way better than what most seniors subsist on (none / 0) (#6)
    by Ellie on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 04:28:27 PM EST
    NTM others living below the poverty line and didn't get a day in court (even given how degraded that guarantee has become in this time and place where rule of law is no longer king.)

    Incarcerated foodies should ponder that while muching the Nutraloaf.

    BTW, the ingredients list with a couple of substitutions (and the subtraction of the potato flakes) skews to how most of the world eats.

    Change vegetable oil to olive, unloaf the stuff and herb it properly, some squirts of lemon and you could easily be munching the same stuff with the Grecophiles in the open thread.

    Looks to be vegan! (none / 0) (#7)
    by s5 on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 05:06:17 PM EST
    Assuming the imitation cheddar is soy based, that is.

    Yum... (none / 0) (#8)
    by reynwrap582 on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 05:07:24 PM EST
    Give me a big ol' slab of Nutraloaf and a nice glass of Pruno and I'm a happy camper.  Dunno what these people are complainin' about!  :p

    Hmmm... (none / 0) (#9)
    by Adept Havelock on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 05:15:51 PM EST
    I believe Crocodile Dundee's assessment of open-fire cooked guana also applies for nutriloaf.

    Oculus- spot-on.

    Appears to be (none / 0) (#10)
    by oldpro on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 05:18:06 PM EST
    quite effective in modifying behavior.

    I just can't seem to get worked up about it so long as it's nutritious, safe...not revolting.

    If bland is the worst one can say about it...well, I keep thinking about those kids I see on my television...desperate for ANYTHING to eat...

    Bland.  Kinda reminds me of some of my mom's unimaginative kitchen productions. Jeez...remember Velveeta?  Balogna sandwiches on Wonderbread?  Chipped beef on toast?

    Some of these people are so contemptuous (none / 0) (#11)
    by white n az on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 05:47:46 PM EST
    that they have forgotten all notions of humanity.

    Of course I live in Phoenix, which is Maricopa County, which is the home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who for reasons that defy the major newspaper, the radio and television stations continues to get elected.

    His thing is pink underpants, green baloney and living in tents without air conditioning though his is a county jail, not a state prison.

    It's all calculated to pump up his bravado and it's awful.

    Obviously their under court orders to provide nutritional balance but get a director who wants to make a name for himself via cruelty and all he needs to do is meet the nutritional requirements and no effort to vary the fare nor to make it palatable. Of course, they wonder why inmates are so unruly...

    "prisoners who misbehave" (none / 0) (#12)
    by diogenes on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 05:58:14 PM EST
    Actually, I'd prefer if they brought up additional charges against prisoners who misbehave so that they stay in prison longer or have county jail time (for harassment, etc) added to their time when they are released from prison.  Does everyone else here agree?

    as a vermonter (none / 0) (#13)
    by leewesley on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 06:10:04 PM EST
    i actually talked to a few prison guards who testified in an earlier court case on this, and they said that it was not a great practice, but that it was only used as punishment when inmates threw feces at the guards.

    not justifying it or anything, just context

    Feces in your face sounds a lot worse than (none / 0) (#19)
    by derridog on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 07:41:31 PM EST
    eating nutraloaf.

    No five fork prisons in Vermont? n/t (none / 0) (#14)
    by JSN on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 06:22:15 PM EST

    i guess the difference between those (none / 0) (#15)
    by cpinva on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 06:59:33 PM EST
    starving on the outside and those incarcerated is that whole "incarcerated" thing. they have no choice in the matter, other than not eating at all.

    i guess they must be really lucky in places like vermont and maricop, AZ, because none of the inmates, once freed, has come back to haunt them personally.

    i think it was von hindenburg who said:

    two things you should never watch being made are sausage and legislation.

    I would (none / 0) (#22)
    by clapclappointpoint on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 09:43:40 PM EST
    have a lot more empathy for the folks eating this if my hippie friends weren't buying stuff like it at the local food co-op.

    The nutraloaf is a healthy (but unexciting) meal for problem prisoners that seems to fulfill most dietary requirements.  If they were serving pork to muslims or jews, or serving something unhealthy or rotten, I would have a problem. This just strikes me (as a person who supports the $10 million hot coffee suit) as a nuisance suit.

    How much (none / 0) (#24)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 09:51:25 PM EST
    catsup are they allowed? Catsup covers up a lot of cooks' sins.

    As a former submariner... (none / 0) (#26)
    by jefered on Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 07:21:35 AM EST
    ...and someone who got to eat some of the best food in the Navy (although the food at the Coast Guard Academy across the river from USN Submarine School is a whole lot better), I can say that such petty punishments in an already-punishing setting would serve to make me more, not less, disagreeable.

    It's also important to remember our own comforts when opining about the "nuisances" others have to tolerate. Sure, nutraloaf doesn't sound too bad if, number one, you don't have to eat it and number two,  you get to unwind this evening on a comfy sofa in front of the TV then sleep in a cozy bed only to feel the sun pour through your bedroom windows in the morning.

    Replace your cozy bed with a two-inch thick mattress on a steel frame, your cozy couch with an aluminum folding chair and forget seeing the sun tomorrow morning - or the next.

    Oh, and here's some nutraloaf to eat.

    It's petty and it sucks ass.

    And (none / 0) (#27)
    by Claw on Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 08:23:26 AM EST
    When you take into account the fact that many inmates are already suffering from serious emotional problems, using their diet as punishment is just silly and sure to lead to more problems.  

    Apparently experience has shown that (none / 0) (#28)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 12:12:28 PM EST
    nutraloaf meals often work in stopping the unwanted prisoner behavior, so I'm not sure why some of us here opine that it does not work.

    Regardless, the stuff's not going away.

    If the lawsuit prevails the use of the loaf will be defined as a punishment and be subject to some regulation but it will not be prohibited.

    iow, if defined as a punishment, the prison staff will mostly just have to fill out some additional paperwork before imposing nutraloaf meals.