Terry Nichols Begins Hunger Strike at Supermax
Terry Nichols, serving a life sentence for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing, has filed a notice with the U.S. District Court in Denver (where he has a civil suit pending against the Bureau of Prisons) advising that he has begun a hunger strike due to the inadequate fiber and excessive refined foods in his diet.
Nichols is representing himself in a pending lawsuit about his diet. He says the lack of whole grains and fresh food in his diet harms his health and violates his religious beliefs, causing him to "sin against God."
Nichols' handwritten six page filing, available on PACER, says he knows that he will be thrown "in the hole" for his hunger strike after missing 9 meals (3 days) and force-fed through a tube inserted in his throat. He says since he began throwing his food down the toilet on Feb. 5 to flush his system in preparation for the strike, he is already weak and has lost several pounds. [More...]
Nichols says he is prepared to die because he is "done allowing his body to be defiled by these refined and dead foods."
Nichols has been fighting for fiber in his diet at least since 2004. In 1984, he underwent rectal surgery and his surgeon recommended a high fiber diet.
According to Nichols, in 2009, after he filed his lawsuit, he began receiving some whole wheat bread and whole wheat hoagie buns but that has stopped. And while he occasionally gets bran cereal, it's usually mixed with Cheerios or corn flakes and insufficient in quantity.
Nichols also says the lack of fiber in his diet violates his religious beliefs by "defiling G-d's holy temple" -- his body.
Nichols cites BOP Program Statement 4700.5. According to the 2010 BOP Legal Manual:
Each institution’s food service program offers nutritionally balanced, appetizing meals. Special Food and Meals, 28 C.F.R. § 547.20 and Program Statement 4700.05, Food Services Manual, provide that medical diets be available to inmates who require such diets. In addition, inmates with religious dietary requirements may apply for the religious diet program, designed to address the dietary restrictions of a variety of different religions. See Program Statement 5360.09, Religious Beliefs and Practices.
He also cites a BOP National Dietician's memo of September, 2008 on heart healthy meals.
Nichols says he just wants BOP to give him fiber to stop his constant pain and suffering from his medical conditions. He says his dietary problems can be solved easily and with minimal costs and he hopes the warden will come and see him before this gets too far. His complaint points out that since he is in a lock-down unit, he's not allowed to go to the cafeteria and choose healthier meals.
He's only asking for a high-fiber diet with insoluble fiber. He's provided the medical documentation necessary to support his need for it. Putting the legal issues aside, it seems to me it will be cheaper to give him fiber and whole grains than treat him for stomach, rectal or colon cancer he might develop. It would also save the Government and taxpayers money in terms of the resources expended by BOP staff, the U.S. Attorneys' office and the court litigating his lawsuit which alleges that his inadequate diet and refusal to address his medical issues constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The suit was filed in March, 2009 and there have been 105 filings and orders to date.
The National Cancer Institute says "A diet rich in cereal fiber may reduce the risk of gastric cancer". Fiber also "mops" up excess cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease." Mayo Clinic has more.
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