Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Victoria jail ignores nutritionist limits on serving cold food

No longer do Victoria County Jail inmates receive "three hots and a cot," as the saying goes. The Sheriff switched to cold food only in the jail, eliminating all hot meals after inmates on a kitchen work detail were caught making jailhouse hooch. Reported Jessica Priest of the Victoria Advocate (July 27):
Inmates at the Victoria County Jail are eating sandwiches for lunch and dinner after several inmates were caught making alcohol in the kitchen.

But some inmates and their families have complained hunger is causing even more problems behind bars.

Amanda Garcia, who is in the jail on suspicion of violating the terms of her probation for a July 2015 theft between $500 and $1,500 case, is one of those hungry inmates complaining.

"We've been eating like this for three weeks. There's a lot of people in here mad about it. It's not right," Garcia, 23, said Tuesday.
As it happens, Jail Commission Standards require jail menus to be approved by a nutritionist. She "wrote on the menu that it 'meets the minimum daily requirements for macronutrients,' but 'should be used for less than two weeks, with the hopes of only one week usage.'" At three weeks and counting, they're already ignoring the limit recommended by the nutritionist. She approved the menu as a short-term fix, not ad infinitum.

Apparently, it's a lot cheaper not to cook food. "In July, the sheriff's office spent about $18,000 to feed inmates at the jail. It has budgeted $485,000 annually to feed inmates at the jail, according to the regular department payment register from the July 14 Victoria County Commissioner's Court meeting." So they're radically underspending this month compared to what's budgeted.

Here's a decent primer on when concerns with jail and prison food rise to constitutional levels. It takes a lot. On this particular topic:
Denying prisoners "hot" meals is not a violation of prisoners' rights, if the cold meals provided are adequate nutritionally, and all needed sanitary procedures are followed in the preparation and serving of the meals. Cosby v. Purkett, 782 F.Supp. 1324 (E.D.Mo., 1992).  See also, Amos v. Simmons, 82 P.3d 859 (Kan. App. 2004) (Serving a prisoner a sack lunch rather than a hot meal did not violate his rights when the food provided was nutritionally adequate and met his medical and religious needs.). 
In this case, though, cold meals are being served for longer than the nutritionist recommended and her recommendation to go back to regular meals after a week or two is being ignored. So that sounds to Grits like it may well rise to the level of a constitutional violation.

The jail submitted a four-phase plan to the commission to "restore discipline," replace male trusty staff, and to begin serving hot meals again. Notably, "Phase II begins with the acceptance of the emergency meal schedule by the general inmate population."  Their "acceptance" is an odd goal for a short-term change. Grits has no direct knowledge of the situation, but there's a whiff here of mass punishment for the offenses of a few. The plan envisions cold food being served to inmates for fourteen days under the "emergency meal menu," after which they would switch back. According to the Advocate, this has already been going on three weeks, with no end in sight.

The Victoria Jail's incarceration rate is 3.7 per thousand residents, compared to an average of 2.16 statewide. As of July 1st according to the Commission on Jail Standards, 56 percent of incarcerated inmates being held pretrial, having not yet been convicted of a crime.

Related: From the Marshall Project.


Anonymous said...

What will Mr. Sheriff say when there's a riot in a few months and he has to explain to the families of dead guards why they were killed?

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 12:24 Guards being murdered because the poor,poor oitiful inmates are still being fed better than many non-incarcerated people. Your barbaric, yet entitled attitude is a HUGE part of the crime and violence and rioting we see. Please shoot yourself and do society a solid

Anonymous said...

Peoples still living in the hood still eating junk fast food Big macks maye they should be the one to protest.

Anonymous said...

This is a jail, not prison. most inmates have not been sentenced. Many of the cases get dismissed .so there is people who may have not done anything and still suffer . Ive done time they serve us boiled eggs and corny dogs that are cooked when we get on lockdown in the johnny sacks.. so to not cook food is about saveing money greedy , yes I can see a riot happening . Why you ask? because we are human, even in primitive times we cook food. your barbaric reason to serve cold food is?? you really wanna know why , us against them mentality . remember one thing these inmates will be out soon a lot of them wont change ,some will get worse.