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The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons
October 20, 2009 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Prison food is bad but it is getting better in some places, at least nutritionally. Other places, it is just getting cheaper. Who serves this stuff? Recently, Slate took a look at the Association of Correctional Food Service Affiliates Annual Conference. But there is food beyond 'prison food bad': Nutraloaf. It is so bad it is almost unconstitutionally bad.
posted by wcfields (130 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've heard of similar things to that Nutraloaf, and they're supposed to be unbearable in the same way that solitary confinement is unbearable--it's the lack of sensory stimulation that grinds on someone .

Plus, of course, you can't make pruno out of it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:52 AM on October 20, 2009


MetaFilter: similar to meatloaf in texture, but has a wider variety of ingredients.
posted by DU at 10:55 AM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nom nom nom.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 10:56 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


It would be interesting to see Nutraloaf given the Fancy Fast Food treatment.

Interesting as in "perverse in the extreme".
posted by gurple at 11:00 AM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Man, I was thinking, "how bad can it be if it's like meatloaf," but that AV club piece makes it sound pretty much nothing like meatloaf in texture.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:02 AM on October 20, 2009


The Nutriloaf looks perilously close to the marriage of Bachelor Chow to the immortal fruitcake.

My favorite bit out of an ancient linear programming textbook is when they come up with the cheapest possible prison meal which still provides the necessary nutrients for life. Afterwards, they have a brief sentence or two to the effect that, while possible, the particular maximum is so unwholesome as to provoke riots.

I'm not quite sure at what point we tipped over from when even hired guns crunched numbers and said "no" to the enthusiastic small-mindedness it might take to torment people locked in a small, dark metal box for the, ah, above-board explanation of saving a few pennies, but I suspect that it could be well-correlated with the increasing privatization of the "correctional" system.
posted by adipocere at 11:04 AM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


I may be the only one to say this, but it doesn't really seem that bad.

Back in college I used to make something I called Instant Thanksgiving. I'd take all the ingredients required for instant mashed potato, instant stuffing, pasta, frozen vegetables, and whatever bachelor condiments I had and I'd put them in a big saucepan. Dinner in less than 10min.

And if you've ever read How To Cook a Wolf (Fisher), you realize that even this isn't so bad. May just have to make some of that Illinois loaf soon.
posted by hanoixan at 11:05 AM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Back in 19th century serving lobster to criminals was considered inhumane. I've read that Massachusetts passed a law prohibiting serving lobster to prisoners more than twice a week.
posted by bobo123 at 11:08 AM on October 20, 2009


After reading about Nutraloaf, I think it sounds basically the worst. And yet, I am very very tempted to make it. And eat it.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:10 AM on October 20, 2009


hanoixan: you're not the only one who isn't repulsed.

The idea of a foodstuff/meal easy to prepare (preferably in bulk quantities), easily reheated, bland, and nutritionally complete is one that I'm (pardon the expression) salivating over.
posted by namewithoutwords at 11:13 AM on October 20, 2009


I am unclear on whether or not this is identical to Nutraloaf, but the first link contains thse sentences:

She said dietitians approve the low-fat and low-salt recipes, and the kitchen prepares 1,200 special meals on the average day for inmates with medical problems.

But it also doles out a "disciplinary loaf" to unruly prisoners: An entire meal is molded into a baked log that is nutritious but unpleasant.


"Disciplinary loaf?" I am absolutely going home, getting the bass out of the closet, and forming a punk band.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:13 AM on October 20, 2009 [22 favorites]


I've read that Massachusetts passed a law prohibiting serving lobster to prisoners more than twice a week.

Back in ye olden days it was considered food for people too poor to get anything else.
posted by GuyZero at 11:14 AM on October 20, 2009


Nutraloaf seems pretty cheap and very bland. Should violent murderers and rapists expect better?
posted by HumanComplex at 11:15 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always imagined this stuff as being like when you are on a strenuous hike or a long bike ride and that random piece of yesterday's bread you stuffed in your bag as an afterthought turns out to be the tastiest and most fulfilling thing you ever ate.
posted by gyusan at 11:16 AM on October 20, 2009


Anything that makes prison cheaper for taxpayers and less pleasant for prisoners, within the bounds of the constitution, is fine in my book. And I don't remember the ammendment that grants Americans the inalienable right to food that tastes good.
posted by martens at 11:20 AM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Should violent murderers and rapists expect better?

Yes. Next question?
posted by mokuba at 11:21 AM on October 20, 2009 [15 favorites]


Anything that makes prison cheaper for taxpayers and less pleasant for prisoners, within the bounds of the constitution, is fine in my book. And I don't remember the ammendment that grants Americans the inalienable right to food that tastes good.

Seriously? Then why not just shoot them all in the head when pronounced guilty and save everyone all the money and hassle involved in the prison system?
posted by GuyZero at 11:23 AM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Deep within the links above is this, a taste test by the Onion AV people.
posted by John of Michigan at 11:23 AM on October 20, 2009


My friend spent a year in jail (for dealing massive amounts of marijuana in case you're curious, which people have different feelings about and that's fine and neither here nor there ) and he always talks about the food. He thought it was the sneaky-worst aspect of jail. Sure the boredom was easily the worst part, the fear and trepidation, the slow erosion of his personality. Now he didn't have to live in total fear believe it or not, because keeping to yourself can get you further than TV would like to admit, but he sure saw a lot of shit happen to other people. But what made the food in jail the worst sneaky-worst part was that he would get excited about eating. It would break up the monotony of the day. He would get excited about whatever they might be serving. It was the IDEA of eating food, being normal, it felt like an escape...

... and then he would eat the most horrid tasting shit in the world and fucking hate everything. It was like a cruel trick. And he said he would fall for it every morning like charlie brown and the football. By dinner, he knew what to expect, but then he'd wake up hungry.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 11:23 AM on October 20, 2009 [35 favorites]


Should violent murderers and rapists expect better?

Yes. Next question?


Care to explain?
posted by HumanComplex at 11:25 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I don't remember the ammendment that grants Americans the inalienable right to food that tastes good.

"Ammendments" define (and extend in some cases) limits of government power, except for the Ninth, which I recommend you read. Also, there does happen to be an amendment in the bill of rights that explicitly mentions the minimum standards of treatment of prisoners -- "cruel and unusual punishment".

Prisoners are people (if not fellow citizens) too and nearly all of them will be released some day. Other countries in Europe have figured this out, but Americans, being Americans, are still behind the civilization curve.
posted by mokuba at 11:26 AM on October 20, 2009 [16 favorites]


It seems like the texture is the most offensive thing about it. It probably wouldn't be hard to make something similar that was fairly tasty unless having it be disgusting is the point. Imagine Paul Newman as Cool Hand Luke having a Nutraloaf eating contest.
posted by Tashtego at 11:28 AM on October 20, 2009


Should violent murderers and rapists expect better?

As I read the FPP materials, my inclination (and no, I was not proud of this) was that convicted murderers and rapists don't deserve better. But one problem with this is that murderers and rapists aren't the only (or even the majority?) of people in jail.
posted by applemeat at 11:28 AM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


Treating prisoners well is beneficial not only to the prisoners, but to ourselves. While I have no emotional investment in rapists having access to tasty food, I do not wish to be the sort of person who would restrict another human being to nutraloves.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:29 AM on October 20, 2009 [12 favorites]


I guess there's a fine line between bad food and unconstitutionally bad food.

but, nutraloaf seems like a reasonable course of action in this situation:
Prisoners may be served nutraloaf if they have assaulted prison guards or fellow prisoners with sharpened utensils.
posted by HumanComplex at 11:33 AM on October 20, 2009


I went to university in Kingston, Ontario (home to a large congregation of prisons), and the company that provided our cafeteria "food" also supplied the prisons. We always hypothesized that they saved the good stuff for the prisoners. I remember we'd get chicken on Monday, then chicken fajitas Tuesday, then chicken stew Wednesday, and chicken loaf Thursday (or some such variation). I'm not so sure Nutraloaf would have been any worse than that sorry old chicken in its third or fourth incarnation.
posted by Go Banana at 11:35 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Prisoners may be served nutraloaf if they have assaulted prison guards or fellow prisoners with sharpened utensils.

If that's the reason then I don't see a problem with it though I wonder if it's worse than it could be with very little effort. I actually think that last bit "assaulted prison guards or fellow prisoners" is one of the few compelling arguments for the death penalty. There are prisoners who are so violent and incorrigible that they pose a serious risk to their fellow prisoners and to the prison staff. I would not want to be locked up with someone like that or have to guard them.
posted by Tashtego at 11:40 AM on October 20, 2009


nutraloaf seems like a reasonable course of action in this situation

I have zero problem with food availability being used for behavior management. I object to horrid food as standard fare as posited in your first question.
posted by mokuba at 11:40 AM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've read that Massachusetts passed a law prohibiting serving lobster to prisoners more than twice a week.

Seems fair. There really should be a limit to how often you can feed even prisoners insects arachnids crustaceans. A bug's a bug, and it's still nasty.

Everyone knows that "delicacies" are really just practical jokes played on those with too much money. Pate is goose liver. Caviar is fish eggs! Lobster just seems like one of those things, but more mainstream.
posted by explosion at 11:43 AM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have zero problem with food availability being used for behavior management. I object to horrid food as standard fare as posited in your first question.

I didn't know you could posit something in the form of a question.
posted by HumanComplex at 11:43 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dont' know how this falls under cruel and unusual punishment since it's a matter of taste. The ingredients are healthy. I don't know, it seems logical that if you dont' want to eat crappy prison food, don't do a crime.
posted by stormpooper at 11:45 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Call me a big ol' squishypants leftist, but I'm pretty certain that the sentiments expressed upthread about inmates deserving bad food, not to mention the original bright idea of serving prisoners tasteless garbage, are the death of civilization itself. I'm not remotely a Christian, but the Biblical "Did you visit me in prison?" idea — the one that's the opposite of that death-of-civilization one upthread — is probably the best for everyone. Attacking or tormenting even the lowest person, whatever its symbolic meaning, demonstrates in literal and material terms that attacking or tormenting people is okay.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:47 AM on October 20, 2009 [39 favorites]


What a soul-crushing job it must be to cook in a prison, where the better the food you prepare tastes, the more you're detracting from the goal of the institution.

On the other hand, I imagine it's all just reheatable stuff like most schoolkids get, anyway. Probably preparing the Nutraloaf represents the most creativity they're allowed to express.
posted by gurple at 11:53 AM on October 20, 2009


but, nutraloaf seems like a reasonable course of action in this situation:
Prisoners may be served nutraloaf if they have assaulted prison guards or fellow prisoners with sharpened utensils.


So why don't they just serve them sandwiches or other food that could be, just as easily, eaten without utensils? Can't assault anyone with a PB&J, either, but I bet it tastes better than a Nutraloaf.

Other possibilities: hamburgers, tacos, burritos, pita pockets, any of which could also include vegetables and be nutritious.

So I don't buy it. It's a punishment, not a safety measure.
posted by emjaybee at 11:58 AM on October 20, 2009 [8 favorites]


In juvenile, we had the lovely concoction "hamloaf", about once a month. It was made from all the bits of a pig that were too gross to put in Spam.
posted by No1UKnow at 11:58 AM on October 20, 2009


I didn't know you could posit something in the form of a question.

. . .
posted by mokuba at 11:59 AM on October 20, 2009


I don't know, it seems logical that if you dont' want to eat crappy prison food, don't do a crime.

I'll remember that when some corrupt cop in Arkansas pulls me over and decides to plant something in my vehicle.
posted by crapmatic at 12:01 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Should violent murderers and rapists expect better?

Yes. Next question?

Care to explain?


Loss of freedom and autonomy is the punishment. Snively shit like feeding prisoners deliberately bad food is just piling on. It achieves no useful purpose for the state or the prisoner. Emphasizing the idea that the man with gun can do whatever he wants to the man without a gun is just bad policy. (None of this is important if you don't believe prison is for rehabilitation, of course.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:01 PM on October 20, 2009 [28 favorites]


I didn't know you could posit something in the form of a question.

Really?
posted by MysteriousMan at 12:03 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]




I'm in no way advocating that we demean or mistreat prisoners in any way. I do believe prison is for rehabilitation. I just think that if you stab a guard in the neck with a sharpened toothbrush, you might have to give up the right to have your taste buds satiated for a while.
posted by HumanComplex at 12:05 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I fail to see how this assists in rehabilitating folks in prison.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:06 PM on October 20, 2009


My favorite bit out of an ancient linear programming textbook is when they come up with the cheapest possible prison meal which still provides the necessary nutrients for life.

Skin-on boiled potatoes and the occasional vitamin pill?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:07 PM on October 20, 2009


but, nutraloaf seems like a reasonable course of action in this situation:
Prisoners may be served nutraloaf if they have assaulted prison guards or fellow prisoners with sharpened utensils.


Serving crappy food day in, day out will mean less violence in prison? Interesting theory.
posted by WPW at 12:10 PM on October 20, 2009


No, it involved cabbage. I distinctly remember cabbage as a component.
posted by adipocere at 12:10 PM on October 20, 2009


By brutalising and demeaning its prison population, the USA (or any country) pretty much guarantees that prison is just a conduit from simple criminality into a permanent, violent, untreatable underclass.
posted by WPW at 12:13 PM on October 20, 2009 [26 favorites]


"I'll remember that when some corrupt cop in Arkansas pulls me over and decides to plant something in my vehicle."

I forgot that most people in jail are innocent..

I think that there are a great deal of fundamental problems with our criminal justice system and the prisons specifically, but prisoners being served nutritious meals albeit horribly bland ones does not bother me at all.
posted by BobbyDigital at 12:20 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Treating prisoners well is beneficial not only to the prisoners, but to ourselves.

Pope Guilty's latter point hits what is, to me, the key to looking at difficult issues like the treatment of prisoners and capital punishment and coming to an obvious conclusion that we have got to treat properly even our lowest of low. When one removes “merit” (i.e. “what do murderers deserve?” ) entirely from the equation, we are left with the far different and essentially more important question of “What would the rest of us become by actively doing harm to this person?”
posted by applemeat at 12:20 PM on October 20, 2009 [10 favorites]


By brutalising and demeaning its prison population, the USA (or any country) pretty much guarantees that prison is just a conduit from simple criminality into a permanent, violent, untreatable underclass.

Which provides the justification for more and better-armed cops and the construction of new prisons, along with the steady erosion of civil liberties. There's no downside to it if you have the mentality of a Joe Arpaio. It's just good business, creates jobs, helps the economy, etc.
posted by metagnathous at 12:23 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I know an old couple who remember the depression and have experienced extreme poverty, and now happily live almost exclusively on bread and milk, eating "normal" meals primarily on special occasions. This should be fine for prisoners. Anything else they want, they can grow themselves.

Find a starving family and ask them what they think of Nutraloaf. Something tells me they wouldn't cry about how bad it tastes.

Seriously? Then why not just shoot them all in the head when pronounced guilty and save everyone all the money and hassle involved in the prison system?

A great idea for violent offenders, but not food-related.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:24 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


but prisoners being served nutritious meals albeit horribly bland ones does not bother me at all.

compare and contrast.
posted by mokuba at 12:25 PM on October 20, 2009


By brutalising and demeaning its prison population, the USA (or any country) pretty much guarantees that prison is just a conduit from simple criminality into a permanent, violent, untreatable underclass.

“What would the rest of us become by actively doing harm to this person?”


I wholeheartedly agree with these viewpoints. I just can't seem to classify bland meatloaf as being brutal, demeaning, or actively doing harm.
posted by HumanComplex at 12:25 PM on October 20, 2009


I just can't seem to classify bland meatloaf as being brutal, demeaning, or actively doing harm.

Ever eaten it as your sole source of nutrition for a month? Let us know how it goes.
posted by GuyZero at 12:26 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know an old couple who remember the depression and have experienced extreme poverty, and now happily live almost exclusively on bread and milk, eating "normal" meals primarily on special occasions. This should be fine for prisoners. Anything else they want, they can grow themselves.

Find a starving family and ask them what they think of Nutraloaf. Something tells me they wouldn't cry about how bad it tastes.

Seriously? Then why not just shoot them all in the head when pronounced guilty and save everyone all the money and hassle involved in the prison system?

A great idea for violent offenders, but not food-related.


That's just fine and dandy except for the fact that it's far too easy to be railroaded in this country (US.) Oh, you're innocent? Well now, they all say that, don't they?

I have nowhere near that level of faith in human institutions.
posted by metagnathous at 12:28 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


In 1978, the US Supreme Court ruled that a substance used in Arkansas known as " 'grue' might be tolerable for a few days and intolerably cruel for weeks or months."

A few days? You can't tolerate grue more than a couple turns without a lantern.

OR:

In Communist Zork, grue eats YOU!
posted by Bokononist at 12:33 PM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Food as punishment. Sounds like a B&B I stayed at in Scotland once.

Everyone knows that "delicacies" are really just practical jokes played on those with too much money. Pate is goose liver. Caviar is fish eggs! Lobster just seems like one of those things, but more mainstream.

You, sir, are a Philistine.
posted by tkchrist at 12:33 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's just fine and dandy except for the fact that it's far too easy to be railroaded in this country (US.) Oh, you're innocent? Well now, they all say that, don't they?

I have nowhere near that level of faith in human institutions.


Then we should just let all prisoners go free.

Personally, I'd MUCH rather take a bullet in the head than do 30 years for a crime I didn't commit.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:34 PM on October 20, 2009


(I'm pretty sure they meant gruel.)
posted by Bokononist at 12:36 PM on October 20, 2009


This should be fine for prisoners. Anything else they want, they can grow themselves.

Right, because prisoners in the US famously have extensive access to agricultural tools and skills.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:37 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


When it comes to the treatment of prisoners, I like to keep one simple thing in the front of my mind at all times: aside from a few life-without-parole types, they will be getting out.

And when they get out, they come to your city, move into your apartment complex, ride your subways, eat where you eat and live cheek-to-jowl with you. What kind of human being would you like to live with?

No amount of "you deserve this, so you don't get to be resentful when you leave" finger-wagging will cause them to pop out of the slam all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, saying, "Golly, I sure learned my lesson, didn't I! That misery was nothing less than I deserved! I will of course never bear any ill will towards anyone because of it."

I'm not suggesting deep tissue massages and spas, but perhaps a little less brutalization, petty torment, and pennywise cruelty would serve society better. People routinely provide more reasonable feedback and training for their pets than they do for prisoners, and yet they seem to be unable or unwilling to apply these simple techniques to humans.
posted by adipocere at 12:38 PM on October 20, 2009 [30 favorites]


Oh, you're innocent? Well now, they all say that, don't they?

My inner jury is out on Nutraloaf, but I think that the line of thought that says we should make prisons nicer because some innocent people get put away sometimes is far, far crazier than Nutraloaf.

Of course, we could just make the non-prison part of our world crappier, to more easily punish those we have yet to convict.

And then in the winter the gorillas freeze to death.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:39 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder how much the bland official food ends up feeding the hunger for black market goods, with all the corruption that entails.
posted by nomisxid at 12:41 PM on October 20, 2009


Uh, which is not to say that I think the horrible things that happen in prison as a side effect of prison are right, or should be a nudge-nudge-wink-wink part of why prison is a deterrent (the loathsome "if you don't like sexual assault you shouldn't have driven drunk" school of thought. Just that there are two problems - people who shouldn't be in prison but are, and the treatment of people who are in prison (viz. Nutraloaf)
posted by dirtdirt at 12:42 PM on October 20, 2009


hell... there is an ongoing controversy weather Rick Perry intentionally interfered in a review of a death penalty case (already executed) because it would make him look bad, never mind that they may have killed an innocent man, and people defend bad for for (supposedly) bad people, and even perhaps just shooting them in the head.

Many people are incarcerated incorrectly, many are incarcerated in lieu of receiving mental health treatment (quick, name the largest provider of mental health services in California!).
One of the things we judge civilizations by is how they treat their prisoners, and while I doubt many would argue for steak and asparagus night at the local penitentiary a basic level of palatability does not seem exactly like coddling criminals.

Lets just feed them HuFu and be done with it eh?
posted by edgeways at 12:46 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, Confinement Loaf! Zappa was on this two decades ago!

Alright. CNN ran a story last week about this new product that has been developed for our prison system. It is called "Confinement Loaf." Now what it is it's, uh, bean by-products compressed into a loaf, which is administered to problem prisoners. Their diet will be a slice of "Confinement Loaf" and a cup of water, and it seems to mellow them out right away. So my question is: How long before "Confinement Loaf" appears in United States High Schools? - Frank Zappa
posted by SansPoint at 12:50 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


hanoixan: "if you've ever read How To Cook a Wolf (Fisher), you realize that even this isn't so bad."

In fairness, she does say:

It is obvious to even the most optimistic that this sludge... is strictly for hunger.

She also recommends it as pet food.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:52 PM on October 20, 2009


My brother works for Florida Corrections. He's one of the head Parole Officer trainers. You know what you don't hear people who work in the prison system say "Boy, these guys really have it too easy."

I've never had discussion about prison food with him. But since he was in the Army for nearly thirty years I bet his threshold of tolerance for disgusting shit is higher than most people. I'll ask him. If he says it's shit then, yeah, you can bet it's inhumanly bad.


I'm not suggesting deep tissue massages and spas, but perhaps a little less brutalization, petty torment, and pennywise cruelty would serve society better. People routinely provide more reasonable feedback and training for their pets than they do for prisoners, and yet they seem to be unable or unwilling to apply these simple techniques to humans.


The entire source of the issue is over-crowding due to the idiotic War On Drugs and Three-strikes Laws. Most of the cruelty is not really intentional. But a by-product of over-crowding coming butt-up against the For Profit prison system. You get so many guys jammed together, a healthy portion of them are sociopaths, and the lock-up cultures they form are a race to bottom of civilization where literally the worst least compassionate survives the best.

And here we are in the worst economy since the depression. I don't think much sympathy or political will is gonna be shed on prisoners. However if we ended the WOD and Three-strikes we could save some of that money we're wasting to try and improve the system or at the very least stop forcing ten thousand feet of shit through a 2 inch drain.
posted by tkchrist at 12:56 PM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Anything that makes prison cheaper for taxpayers and less pleasant for prisoners, within the bounds of the constitution, is fine in my book. And I don't remember the ammendment that grants Americans the inalienable right to food that tastes good.

I'm reminded about some old line about 'cruel and unusual punishment', that I heard somewhere. It's some old concept which we don't worry about much any more.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:57 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I believe the argument that prisoners shouldn't be treated badly because sometimes innocent people get put away is a red herring. Prisoners shouldn't be treated badly because declaring murderers and rapists (or terrorists, or any other lowest-of-the-low) as outside of the purview of civilization, or outside the requirement to humane treatment, is the death of civilization.

Even as a non-Christian I think the "whatever you did unto the least of these you did unto me" standard is absolutely dead-on right (and you can call me a big ol' squishypants leftist for that). However, other non-Christians might be more comfortable with Solzhenitsyn's realization while in Gulag that the streak of evil which ran through his tormentors there also ran through him — it's not like there were the bad people who put him in Gulag and bad people who tortured him there, and then good people who were tortured. Rather, the tendency toward evil runs through each and every person to one degree or another. The evil that justly imprisoned prisoners have committed does not remove them from the human community, because a tendency toward evil is itself a part of the human condition.

Yes, there are worse things in the world than being forced to eat food that looks, tastes, and feels like shit. However, forcing people to eat food that looks, tastes, and feels like shit, when you have the option of giving them food that doesn't look, taste, or feel like shit, is a low-down, mean, and degrading act.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:05 PM on October 20, 2009 [23 favorites]


but I think that the line of thought that says we should make prisons nicer because some innocent people get put away sometimes is far, far crazier than Nutraloaf.

I disagree. If I were King, incarceration would, at the highest level, resemble a 24/7 high school (behavior problems would escalate inmates towards less . . . reformative . . . environments). It should be possible to emerge as a better person after one's sentence, and if one has a better person inside then this should be able to find realization during incarceration. This is the general theory behind other more advanced criminal justice systems like Canada's and others.

Career criminals do an immense amount of economic damage to our society, and we're doing a real shitty job of preventing and/or redirecting this.

I am reminded of Cipolla's awesome essay on social intelligence and stupidity. We've got a criminal element going around causing disproportionate economic losses. We'll always have the stupid and the bandit element, the question is how to actually address the situation.
posted by mokuba at 1:09 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Anything that makes prison cheaper for taxpayers and less pleasant for prisoners, within the bounds of the constitution, is fine in my book."

That's because you don't work in a prison, you don't care how many much tax money has to be spent preventing riots, and you'd rather see people come out of prison hating you than rehabilitated. Somehow, making the problem much much worse is preferable to you than letting a criminal avoid any possible suffering.

Creating harder prisons only gets you harder and more bitter ex-cons walking the streets. Why is that a good thing?
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:12 PM on October 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


oh man -> from that cbc article linked to by wcfields above:

"Crime is what happens when ambition and opportunity bump into each other just as integrity happens to be out of town for the weekend.

It seems to happen all the time, whether you're an energy trader or a mortgage broker or a convenience store cashier. The job of a prison program ought to be to limit opportunity while giving integrity every reason to come back and stay."

posted by mannequito at 1:18 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Anything that makes prison cheaper for taxpayers and less pleasant for prisoners, within the bounds of the constitution, is fine in my book. And I don't remember the amendment that grants Americans the inalienable right to food that tastes good.

Oooh, why stop there? I'm sure if someone would just suggest it to Scalia/Thomas at some dinner party or something, they could be convinced that 'punishment,' as an active term, only applies to positive and not negative actions, or something. So it's unconstitutional to beat prisoners senseless, but you have no obligation to even provide them with food. It's a positive right/negative right thing. Just throw them in a cell and let them fend for themselves, if they can't find food, that's not our fault! Or, I've got it, the free market will provide the socially optimal level of food for them! Without government provision of prison food, think of all the money we'd save! Think of how low taxes could go! Oh boy!

But wait: we can go further still! Shelter, too, is not a right, but a commodity. We don't have to give it to prisoners at all! If a prisoner wants a prison, he or she should buy one. Otherwise, we could just draw a ring on the ground, and tell the prisoners to stay in the ring! What could go wrong! And without government to pay for prisons, my taxes would be practically nil. Yeah, that's it: GET THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF MY PRISONS!
posted by notswedish at 1:22 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm gonna go with emjaybee on this one. There are plenty of safe options that could be eaten without utensils. IMHO the reasons we're seeing NutraLoaf are twofold:... 1.) It's an institutional kitchen setting, so the goal is cheap, easy and mass produced food (that doesn't affect the private prison system profits), and 2.) its a subtle disciplinary measure.

Is it "cruel and unusual" ?... I don't think so. I'm poor, I eat comparable quality food on a recent/regular basis, and would probably not blink an eye at Nutraloaf.
posted by jmnugent at 1:33 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can eat 50 nutraloafs.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:43 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


No man could eat 50 nutraloafs.
posted by GuyZero at 1:48 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


As long as prisons exist to punish there will be loaf.

Once prisons exist to rehabilitate, there will be food.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:54 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Punishments are also used for political reasons that don't have to do with the actual prisoner. For instance, one of the higher up guards in my world has an inmate who acts as his secretary. If that guard pisses off another guard, guess who gets thrown in the hole under whatever pretext handy or fabricated? (And there is always a pretext handy, just like for motorists who get pulled over. If the cop is a dick there's nothing to stop him from smashing your taillights and citing you for it, as we all know.)

The problem there isn't the punishments, it's how easy they are to abuse. I have no problem with a couple days of Nutraloaf if you've been making life difficult, but years of it with no recourse isn't okay, yet seems inevitable to me.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:01 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dunno, it seems to me that there should be a prison farm where the ingredients are grown/raised, tended to by prisoners, and the cafeteria should be staffed with prisoners who will learn to cook in large, institutional batches.

This would save money, occupy the inmates (and tire them as well) and teach folks skills that are useful once they leave prison.

The idea of prison is either that of a reformatory or a penitentiary.

If you believe that prison is a reformatory, in that bad people can reform, then you'd want to treat people with kindness, mercy and teach them skills that they could use.

If you believe that prison is a penitentiary, in which the inmates should be penitent, then you'd want them eating bologna sandwiches, living in tents and wearing pink underwear, Joe Arpaio.

Personally, I'd rather deal with folks who are fresh out of a reformatory than a penitentiary any day of the week.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:01 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Should violent murderers and rapists expect better?

Ah, the voice of vindictive America.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:03 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


For instance, one of the higher up guards in my world...

Wait, what is your world? Are you a prison guard? (anti-hamburger)
posted by fermezporte at 2:06 PM on October 20, 2009


In the Shelby County Alabama jail it's beans, twice a day. Lock up a bunch of guys in close quarters, feed them a relentless diet of beans, and see what happens. Food quality is not the cruel and unusual punishment in that equation.

On the bright side, every Friday morning was biscuits and gravy that were really, really yummy. Seriously. There was never a problem getting guys out of their bunks for chow on Friday morning.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:17 PM on October 20, 2009


"Disciplinary loaf?" I am absolutely going home, getting the bass out of the closet, and forming a punk band.

Almost as good as the Dukes of Moral Hazard.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:17 PM on October 20, 2009


Should violent murderers and rapists expect better?

Ah, the voice of vindictive America.


Posing a question is vindictive?
posted by HumanComplex at 2:20 PM on October 20, 2009


Are you always disingenuous about rhetorical questions?
posted by GuyZero at 2:28 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


For instance, one of the higher up guards in my world...

No, I just teach a class once a week, but even that requires enormous amounts of maneouvering through bureacracy and politics. (Fortunately, other people do most of the work for me because it's been demonstrated that I'm terrible at it. For instance, I assume the administrators I deal with will do what they've volunteered to do, instead of backstabbing. I expect the person I've talked to daily for 4 weeks to still be there tomorrow. In other words, I make all sorts of dangerous assumptions. Fortunately, there are some awesome people in the system, as well as petty and vindictive ones.)
posted by small_ruminant at 2:32 PM on October 20, 2009


My son is a corrections officer - the people who are fed something like this are ones who have broken the rules, generally rules that are meant to keep the officers and other prisoners safe from harm. They're the ones that shit themselves and then call the officer over to the door so they can fling feces in their face. The ones that beat up their cellmate or rape the new guy until he has to be scraped up off the floor. They aren't the ones that are in for writing a bad check or failing the field sobriety test and are quietly keeping to themselves and biding their time. It's the rowdy and violent prisoners who are a danger to others that are given this type of food.
posted by hollygoheavy at 2:33 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you always disingenuous about rhetorical questions?


I just don't like when one's intent is assumed for the sake of snark.
posted by HumanComplex at 2:37 PM on October 20, 2009


All you need is loaf.
posted by gyusan at 2:38 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Shit-throwing rapists: bearing the cross of "vindictive America" since 1916.
posted by gagglezoomer at 2:44 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


prison is just a conduit from simple criminality into a permanent, violent, untreatable underclass.

That's what it's for. Without a permanent, violent, untreatable underclass, how do you keep the workers in line?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:44 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can eat 50 nutraloafs.

Youtube video project?

It could be a great way to raise awareness about the issue. Plus I would totally pay a dollar to see it.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 2:45 PM on October 20, 2009


I wonder how much the bland official food ends up feeding the hunger for black market goods, with all the corruption that entails.

I spent a couple years in prison some years back and it definitely feeds it. Not just black market stuff either, in prison you can buy snacks and other stuff from the canteen (prison convenience store) and those things wind up being used like money. Some guys rarely if ever eat the facility's food and just make all their own food in their cell. Hotplates weren't allowed where I was at, but they are in many prisons. You can also take the water out of the toilet and burn little cylinders of toilet paper in it to cook- it burns with a lot less smoke than you might think. This can be a bad thing because some guys have big stashes and it becomes like money. With that they can get other guys in debt- and debt causes sexual exploitation and other violence. You can get rented out as a living blowup doll for less than 10 bucks worth of snacks/coffee/etc. There's a pretty well-defined method of giving stuff to a (usually young first-time) guy, and then he owes and it's either pay, fuck, or fight. That's a simplification but usually the rapist has the victim (falsely) feeling like it's some sort of consensual relationship, like the prostitute-pimp relationship taken to the Nth degree. There's a documentary about this process called "Turned Out."
posted by hamida2242 at 2:45 PM on October 20, 2009 [15 favorites]


Funny how so many people who've never tasted Nutriloaf assert so confidently that they'd be willing to live on it.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:58 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


The American prison system is probably irreparable.

We're content to throw people into the pit and don't care how they come out when we deign to pull them out. Hell, we can always just throw them back in the pit again. If they didn't like it they'd stop doing the things that make us throw them there in the first place. What, they can't learn?

Public whipping would be more humane than what goes on in American prisons every day.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:06 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


There's a documentary about this process called "Turned Out."

It's on YouTube: Turned Out: Sexual Assault Behind Bars [Part 1]
posted by wcfields at 3:09 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I went to a conference a few years back that some corrections folks also attended. We do troop feeding, they were looking for ideas. A corrections guy sat down across from me at lunch and starting talking about how they feed inmates for like thirty-eight cents per day. But that wasn't the weird part. He was wearing a long sleeved dress shirt buttoned to the cuffs and when he reached for his iced tea his barbed wire bracelet wrist tattoos were on display. It seemed in poor taste.
posted by fixedgear at 3:14 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


The idea of a foodstuff/meal easy to prepare (preferably in bulk quantities), easily reheated, bland, and nutritionally complete is one that I'm (pardon the expression) salivating over.

That's not what this is. This is food that is disgusting by design. It's not simply "bland food" that saves the prison system money (like the prison system cares about saving money!). It's designed to repulse the prisoner who's eating it. To make the simple act of keeping oneself alive an exercise in revulsion.

But they're rapists so screw 'em.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:23 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, my father worked in a supermax prison facility here in Texas and he told me tales of the prison loaf.

Specifically, he said that it was made out of the leftovers from everyone else's food ground up in a food processor the following day and baked. He also said that only prisoners in solitary got it. I asked what type of behavior warranted the food loaf as sustenance, and his answer was pretty graphic: "Well, we have one guy who holds shit in his mouth and every time anyone comes near enough to give him water, food, etc. he spits shit in that person's eye, hoping to deliver an eye infection strong enough to take each prison employee out of rotation."

So, you know, for some prisons it's a matter of shoving something of a certain size through a hole in a metal door (water, food loaf) that doesn't require any contact with the prisoner (and that doesn't require utensils to eat, and can stay good indefinitely). Prison loaf and water can be put in containers like this and delivered to the most unstable and/or violent prisoners without fear of injury to the guard or the prisoner.

He also emphasized that you'd have to be "in the hole" to be fed prison loaf, i.e. committed repeated self-harm, violence towards other prisoners, violence against prison employees or something similar (blowing up the toilet with a Bic lighter in your cell was not deemed enough to get solitary and prison loaf, by the way. that only warranted a cell/section transfer).
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:33 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


So why don't they just serve them sandwiches or other food that could be, just as easily, eaten without utensils? Can't assault anyone with a PB&J, either, but I bet it tastes better than a Nutraloaf.

Other possibilities: hamburgers, tacos, burritos, pita pockets, any of which could also include vegetables and be nutritious.

So I don't buy it. It's a punishment, not a safety measure.


Actually, the main issue is probably food and labor cost in the kitchen. Judging from the AV Club link's recipe for Nutriloaf, there is a very small amount of meat or fresh, perishable product in it--and what is there is probably on it's way out as edible--and a large proportion of canned or non-perishable things. Another plus is that it probably only takes one or two "cooks" to make Nutraloaf, as opposed to the larger amount it would take to assemble sandwiches or other tasty treats.

Why is this such a huge consideration?

The entire source of the issue is over-crowding due to the idiotic War On Drugs and Three-strikes Laws. Most of the cruelty is not really intentional. But a by-product of over-crowding coming butt-up against the For Profit prison system.

Overcrowding (i.e. too many mouths to feed) and privatization (i.e. we run this prison as a business damnit!) probably have more that a little to do with why there's so much bad food.
posted by kaiseki at 3:42 PM on October 20, 2009


I just put the ingredients into Supercook and it came up with four recipes I can make straight away. The top of the list was 'Great Baby Food'. Just missed out on 'Hobo Dinner' because there was no onion.
posted by tellurian at 3:47 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


He also emphasized that you'd have to be "in the hole" to be fed prison loaf, i.e. committed repeated self-harm, violence towards other prisoners, violence against prison employees or something similar

From what I know, which isn't a lot, since it's second hand, this isn't the case in the prison I go to. Solitary has turned into a regular punishment and each time you go in, you automatically get a longer period in it. I hear about 1-2 months pretty regularly.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:48 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know a guy who volunteered to eat nothing except nutriloaf for a week or so. Recipes from several institutions are included, should anyone who's said, "I could live on that," feel like giving it a try.

Although the first few meals are tolerable, he assures me that after a day or two the monotony really is much worse than the rotting, oozing balogna sandwiches I've been given in city jail. I'm not entirely convinced. (I suspect jail staff may save up the really nasty stuff when they expect large civil-disobedience arrests, just to mess with protesters, so I can't guarantee that a bag containing a sour sandwich and a black, mushy apple represents standard fare. But, from what little I've seen, correctional institutions have an amazing facility when it comes to turning seemingly harmless ingredients into stuff so close to inedible as makes no difference. Jail hunger strikes are sometimes as much about avoiding diarrhea as making political statement.)
posted by eotvos at 3:51 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


A couple of lifetimes ago, when I used to do prison advocacy work, I heard a good deal about nutraloaf. I'm embarassed to say that at the time I had no idea what was in it. I sort of imagined a concoction of soy-foam packing peanuts, hoof glue, and Flintstones chewables. This stuff doesn't look nearly as bad as what I'd pictured. Not that it looks -good-, mind: it's just that I didn't realize that nutraloaf contained anything that wasn't extruded.

And now that I'm in grad school (even though I still think nutraloaf is a perfectly reprehensible thing to feed to someone in a correctional context) I find myself kind of tempted to experiment with variations on the theme. During the day, I'm pogoing from meetings to classes to lab sessions, and using any scraps of time I find in between for research and writing. At that pace, food of any kind tends to seem like a bitter chore. If there was some kind of no-fuss substance I could choke down one or twice a day to prevent rickets, osteoporosis, scurvy, and the low blood sugar-mediated afternoon stupids, I'd be all over it. It'd actually be kind of better if it tasted awful-- because that would facilitate a conception of eating as a "task," which I am all about, instead of as a "break," which can sometimes be hard to justify.

Right. Off to lecture.

I actually do love grad school. I love it a lot. It's just that there's so much of it.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:54 PM on October 20, 2009


The whole reason the main list of ingredients in Nutra-Loaf is "variable" is so that they can get away with putting petfood-grade animal scraps and sawdust in human food (off the books, of course) and save a bit of money. Thats all. The fact that it tastes worse is just a happy accident.
If they could get away with feeding the prisoners to each other, they would, trust me.

Nothing more american than that tight little sweet spot where our rampant greed meets our runaway drive to PUNISH.
posted by HalfJack at 3:58 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


My father was a food service director for a jail, a prison, and a Catholic-run reform school, all in California.

His employer at San Quentin was the same employer as a number of other jails, schools, airports, and large private facilities nationwide. They had a standardized menu, standardized suppliers, and a standard for nutrition. In California, the state oversees nutrition for state and county jails, and provides some oversight for federal jails. Their requirements for nutrition are stringent. My father's basic menus involved the main food groups as defined by the food pyramid.

From what he mentioned, if you're going to be in prison and you want to be fed, California is where it's at. It is cheaper for them to conform to standards than it is to subject themselves to lawsuits and possible oversight from the state. The food, he said, was bland as hell...very little spices, very little spectrum of flavor...but it met every nutritional need. They had special menus, as well, for religious and medical diets.

The menus at the jails and prisons met the same nutritional guidelines as the reform school, which was very closely controlled by the state. I asked him about Nutraloaf, and he'd heard of it but they'd never purchased it or used it.

He moved from that position to teaching cooking at a county jail about ten years ago, in a program that was largely funded by IHOP. Odds are if you go to IHOP, your food was cooked by an ex-con in a very successful rehab program.
posted by blixco at 4:05 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


It's probably not even that bad, it's just that nothing else will ever come close once you've got a taste...for murder!
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:33 PM on October 20, 2009


but, nutraloaf seems like a reasonable course of action in this situation.

Prisoners may be served nutraloaf if they have assaulted prison guards or fellow prisoners with sharpened utensils.


I'm trying hard to see how serving nutraloaf to prisoners would stop them from assaulting others.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:33 PM on October 20, 2009


When I was in college the food service contractor that ran our cafeteria also served the country jail. Friends who got arrested for drunken misconduct reported that the menu was exactly the same.

Makes perfect sense, really..
posted by clarknova at 4:42 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


small_ruminant, I'm confused by your comment. Do you mean that prisoners outside solitary are getting prison loaf or are you saying that solitary in and of itself is the punishment, because that's what I understand to be true, too.

My point was that as far as I know, only prisoners in solitary get prison loaf, and then, it's considered an additional punishment/safety measure for the guard in those cases.

In the supermax facilities, you're locked down without contact with other prisoners for 23 hours per day. Solitary isn't much of a step up from that for the prisoners that are denied contact with other prisoners in the general population to begin with, i.e., terrorists, mass murderers and the like, which are automatically regulated to the supermax prisons (when they don't get the death penalty, that is).

My understanding of solitary terms is the same as yours, i.e. 1-2 months at a time. I was just wondering if you could clarify?
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:49 PM on October 20, 2009


Oh. And in the part of my comment you quoted, I was trying to emphasize that you didn't automatically get prison loaf in solitary -- you only got it if you were especially difficult to deal with. Sorry if that was confusing.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:51 PM on October 20, 2009


One more thing... my understanding of prison food is that it's pretty strenuously regulated on a state or federal level (depending on the prison), but food law is constantly evolving in regards to prison standards for this very reason.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:59 PM on October 20, 2009


Lets not forget that the USA, with the possible exception of North Korea, has more of its citizens in jail than any other country.

With more people going to prison every year, it’s a growth sector that no savvy investor can afford to ignore. Eventually almost everyone, except for well connected Wall Street assholes will go to the pen anyway, and they will all need something to eat while they’re there and then, after they get out with no prospects , so why not get ahead of the curve with a Nutraloaf franchise.


If I had enough money to live on and some money to invest, I would definitely look at a Nutraloaf franchise. Who knows? With the right kind of advertising you could even market it to the general public as street cred food with rap guys doing Nutraloaf jingles.

You ain’t been inside motherfucker
Till that Nutraloaf shit be inside you bad ass


Soggy or extra gummy, or the Colonel’s original recipe?


..
posted by Huplescat at 5:25 PM on October 20, 2009


My understanding of solitary terms is the same as yours, i.e. 1-2 months at a time. I was just wondering if you could clarify?

Well, that tends to be the case for disciplinary segregation, but what happens is guys get put in administrative segregation if it's going to be long term. ADSEG can be and often is indefinite. Conditions in ADSEG tend not to differ from those in DSEG. HRW did a report on the practice in Virginia:

"Segregation in Virginia is indefinite. DOC policies provide no guidance on permissible length of time in segregation. Inmates do not know what, if anything, they can do to secure their release to general population. While the DOC’s operating procedure mandates periodic reviews of an inmate’s placement in segregation, it does not specify criteria for guiding the institution’s decision-making process. Nor does it affirm the goal of safely transferring inmates to lesser custody as soon as feasible."

This happens in other states as well. Louisiana kept the Angola 3 in isolation for over 30 years. In California getting sent to a SHU for an indefinite stint is called "the Forever." SHU is Security Housing Unit, aka supermax. The old term was "Control Unit," basically it's where you send an inmate to break him like you'd break a horse. Cali was a pioneer in SHU design & operation- the SHU at Pelican Bay is the one by which the others are judged. That's hard time right there.
posted by hamida2242 at 5:45 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's the rowdy and violent prisoners who are a danger to others that are given this type of food.

So it is punishment, then. Because if nutriloaf is only being made for a few prisoners, industrial meal assembly is not an issue, and you could slide a sandwich/non-utensil-requiring food through the slot just as easily. Possibly more, if nutriloaf requires a container of some kind. Hell, beef jerky would be better.

Can we just drop the pretense that feeding prisoners something as repulsive as nutriloaf has anything to do with money or safety? It's punishment mechanism. And the relevant question then becomes, is this appropriate punishment? The hypothetical shit-spewing inmate is already in solitary and unable to do more harm. I'm sure it makes guards feel better to feed a guy like that nasty food. That doesn't mean it's justified.
posted by emjaybee at 7:22 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't remember the ammendment that grants Americans the inalienable right to food that tastes good.

Seriously? Then why not just shoot them all in the head when pronounced guilty and save everyone all the money and hassle involved in the prison system?


Because we do remember the constitutional amendments that prohibit that.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:25 PM on October 20, 2009


I saw this thread earlier today and was hoping to return tonight with a field report from the front lines of volunteering in my state's correctional system. I was only able to get second-hand reports.

Both the guys I talked to had definitely heard of it, but never had it. In this prison, they save Nutraloaf for people in solitary who commit another offense while they are in solitary. (I guess there's not much more to do to them once they are in the hole.) The offenses were much the same as described above: throwing food at staff, or spitting on them.

One thing I did learn: at the prison I go to the most common offense they dish out Nutraloaf for is masturbating while in solitary. Hell, it's probably the only time you get some privacy in that place.

The guys in this place eat a lot of turkey. Turkey lasagna, turkey meatloaf, spaghetti with turkey meatballs, turkey burgers. They say they don't get pork "because of the Muslims" and I guess chicken and beef is too expensive.

Across the board, everyone describes the food as horrendous, and anyone who can afford to eats out of the canteen. I did hear an interesting recipe for dorm-cooked burritos that involved a trash bag and radiator, but it wasn't so interesting that I wanted to write it down and try it myself.
posted by marxchivist at 7:26 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's the rowdy and violent prisoners who are a danger to others that are given this type of food.

Oh, well, then. I'm sure this will help them control themselves.
posted by agregoli at 8:00 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't care what Michael Pollan says, Chicken McNuggets are delicious.
posted by !Jim at 8:27 PM on October 20, 2009


Back in 19th century serving lobster to criminals was considered inhumane. I've read that Massachusetts passed a law prohibiting serving lobster to prisoners more than twice a week.
"[Lobster, often considered 'poverty food' in previous times], was so commonly used as a food for servants and prisoners that Massachusetts passed a law forbidding its use more than twice a week -- a daily lobster dinner was considered cruel and unusual punishment!"*#
posted by ericb at 9:00 PM on October 20, 2009


>: Anything that makes prison cheaper for taxpayers and less pleasant for prisoners, within the bounds of the constitution, is fine in my book. And I don't remember the ammendment that grants Americans the inalienable right to food that tastes good.

Apparently you're not that familiar with the state of justice in the US.
It's easy to say HIT THEM WITH A BIGGER STICK when you're from a background that's not so likely to land you in jail- if you're white, middle-class, live in a nice neighborhood, are not are pinko commie, only do legal drugs/do drugs indoors... it goes on. After all, they're just a bunch of thugs/murderers/thieves/$undesirables who deserve what they get, right?

Shame, shame on the people who favorited that.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:44 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


I recall reading about prison in Florida where they served this. The guards enjoyed (which is part of the problem) implying the loaf contained the guard's shit. But as I recall the article, part of the issue was the effect the loaf had on the gastrointestinal tract of the prisoners.

If food is meant as punishment, and part of that punishment in fact involves an unhealthy effect, such as bloating/excessive gas, then it's "cruel and unusual" in my book.

One thing I did learn: at the prison I go to the most common offense they dish out Nutraloaf for is masturbating while in solitary. posted by marxchivist

Right there you see where the system has gone nuts, and using an insane and unhealthy policy as an excuse to abuse prisoners. Punishing a guy for beating off, while in solitary confinement! Excuse me, but being private is an appropriate place for that! What in hell are they thinking? Seems to me they spend too much time dreaming up new excuses to abuse prisoners. At the very least, it is imposing some moral judgement whose only basis is in religion, so suddenly religious values are imposed upon prisoners by the state, and that's wrong.
posted by Goofyy at 4:40 AM on October 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Jesus, I've seen a lot of savage beatdowns, inhumanity, torture, twisted sexual exploitation, and the like through MeFi and the Internet in general.

I'm checking back in here to report that NutraLoaf, exacerbated by the earlier-linked detailed recipe and taste test by the Onion AV Club, has truly fucked with my head for the last 24 hours. I've never even seen the stuff for real but I can feel it and taste it and it's giving me the heebie-jeebies.
posted by Bokononist at 9:38 AM on October 21, 2009


the real denial is condiments. Tabasco or Worcester sauce improves anything.
posted by A189Nut at 11:39 AM on October 21, 2009


Sriracha is very popular.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:44 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Punishing a guy for beating off, while in solitary confinement! Excuse me, but being private is an appropriate place for that! What in hell are they thinking?

The dominant uses power to control the sexuality of the subordinate, both subordinate males and subordinate females; it is very common in sociobiology, and we are somewhat hardcoaded to abuse power in that way when we can. Silverback gorillas do it, and so does the catholic church. It is encoded in our law as most obviously as anti-abortion law and anti-adultery law (which is generally not applied to dominant males, go figure)).

But the guards are still fucking bastards to do that to people (both nutraloaf, and punishing onanism). It seems to be torture in the form of denial of novelty and beauty.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:09 PM on October 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


An article in my local paper comments on the poor quality of prison food in this state under a private contract with Aramark, and suggests that food quality played a role in recent riots.
posted by dilettante at 5:03 PM on October 21, 2009


In dilettante's article:
"The inmate responses are typical for a correctional environment," said Sarah Jarvis, a spokesperson for Aramark. "Prisoners and others complaining about Aramark's service appear to have questionable and self-interested motivations, and we will not be distracted from our goal of providing top quality service and significant taxpayer savings to the people of Kentucky."

It's not like, you know, the Aramark spokeswoman might have questionable and self-interested motivations. And since when is self-interest over getting fed unreasonable?

America: Shitting down the throats of the disenfranchised.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:01 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nutraloaf's a great idea, because as everyone knows, treating someone like shit is a great way to keep them from treating other people like shit. Normally people treat others in a way that's exactly the opposite of the way they've been treated, especially by those who have absolute control over their comings and goings. For my part, I can say that the main reason *I'm* such a nice guy is 'cause my parents were smart enough to run me down, degrade me, and control me every day growing up. Too bad I wasn't lucky enough as a grown-up to have been bullied for years by perfect strangers, I'd probably be fuckin' Gandhi by now! More's the pity.
posted by facetious at 8:27 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny thing is, you'll hear how we can't "coddle" criminals. Then you'll hear, in another context, how if you keep people comfortable, they'll grow "soft". Of course, the same people will make both arguments. So the goal, apparently, is to create hardened criminals. Of course, with 3-strikes, that just means they'll come back for a permanent stay.

1) Criminalize everything
2) Abuse the incarcerated criminals, making them hard
3) Get them back with a life sentence.
4) Put them to work as slave labor, successfully competing with China
5) profit

When I think about the conditions in prisons, and then consider also the sorry state of public schools in many places, the rage threatens to overwhelm! We fail them when they are young, then we lock them up abuse them as adults (or sooner). But OH NOES, prison MUST be "punishment"! Can't coddle!

I'll grant that the obvious conclusion is counter-intuitive. To me, it is clear, prisoners should be coddled! Prison should be an extremely protective, therapeutic, and nurturing environment. A person leaving prison should be better than when they went in, and come out with a clearly understood stake in society, rather than the exact opposite, which they do now.
posted by Goofyy at 10:26 PM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


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