How Ohio’s Plan To Privatize Prison Food Could Lead To Deadly Riots

From: Think Progress
By Aviva Shen on Feb 11, 2013

In an effort to cut costs, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is planning to hire a private food vendor to feed 50,179 inmates in the Ohio prison system. The administration argues the decision to outsource prison food will save as much as $16 million a year.

Motivated by a huge state deficit, Ohio has become a laboratory in prison reform — with mixed results. The state sold a prison to Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison company, in 2011, only to discover abysmal conditions far below state standards in sanitation, food quality, hygiene, and health care. However, Ohio’s new sentencing reforms are saving the state millions while diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and into educational and rehabilitative programs.

Ohio’s taste for privatization is likely to make prison food even less appetizing than it already is. Private vendors can skimp on food quality, quantity, and staff in order to make a profit. Unlike state-run cafeterias, private vendors servicing juvenile detention facilities can skip the federal nutrition guidelines for school lunches:

The state Department of Youth Services, which has 469 youths at four detention facilities, spends $6.18 million a year, or $27.60 per inmate per day for food service, said spokeswoman Kim Parsell. The costs are higher because youths don’t help with food prep or cooking, the meals adhere to federal guidelines for school lunches and the teen-aged detainees have higher caloric needs, she said. The state receives $5.51 per day per youth as reimbursement from the national school lunch program. Switching to a private vendor is expected to save DYS about $1.2 million a year, she said.

The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the union that represents some 10,000 prison workers, warns that a contractor will pay lower wages, hire fewer people and dish out less food to make a profit. Roughly, 450 state workers in DYS and DRC could end up losing their jobs, though some could apply for other state jobs or perhaps be hired by the contractor.

Tim Shafer, OCSEA operations director, said complaints about inmate food may sound like whining but they contribute to the safety and security of a prison.
“As a former corrections officer, I can tell you one of the best things in the world is a full inmate. They want to sit down and chill out,” Shafer said. Inmates are fed a heart healthy diet that features a rotating menu of dinners such as sloppy joes, fajitas, and chicken and biscuits.

Poor food quality and sanitation have sparked multiple deadly riots at private prisons run by corporations like CCA and GEO Group. In one prison, inmates were fed soup filled with worms, while other prisons served burritos and brownies contaminated with human feces.

Read the rest here: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/02/11/1563191/ohio-privatize-prison-food/?mobile=nc

Red Onion Prisoners Unite in a Hunger Strike Protesting Abuse

PLEASE SUPPORT, UPDATES AT http://virginiaprisonstrike.blogspot.com/

Red Onion Prisoners Unite in a Hunger Strike Protesting Abuse

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—MAY 21, 2012

Press Contacts: Solidarity with Virginia Prison Hunger Strikers

John Tuzcu /216.533.9925 / vasolidarity@gmail.com
Adwoa Masozi / 973.494.4266 / vasolidarity@gmail.com

What: Press Conference
When: 11 AM
Where: VA Department of Corrections, 6900 Atmore Dr. Richmond VA (at the DOC sign on the corner of Atmore and Wyck St.)

RICHMOND – On Tuesday May 22 as many as 45 prisoners at Red Onion State Prison, comprising at least 2 segregation pods, will enter the first day of a hunger strike protesting deplorable conditions in the prison and ongoing abuses by prison staff. For the men participating in the strike this is their only recourse to get Red Onion warden Randy Mathena to officially recognize their grievances and make immediate changes to food, sanitation and basic living conditions at the prison.

Supporters from DC and Virginia along with prisoner family members will hold a press conference at 11 AM in front of the VA Department of Corrections, in Richmond at 6900 Atmore Dr., to urge Warden Mathena, the Virginia Department of Corrections under Harold Clarke, Governor Bob McDonell, state Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb and other state and congressional legislators to act on behalf of justice and human rights. ­­

A statement released by one of the hunger strike representatives said, “We’re tired of being treated like animals. There are only two classes at this prison: the oppressor and the oppressed. We, the oppressed, despite divisions of sexual preference, gang affiliation, race and religion, are coming together. We are rival gang members but now are united as revolutionaries.”

Some of the prisoner’s demands include the right to have fully cooked meals, the right to clean cells, the right to be notified of the purpose and duration of their detention in segregation, and a call for the end to indefinite segregation. Red Onion has been repeatedly criticized since it opened in 1998. A 1999 Human Rights Watch report on Red Onion concluded that the “Virginia Department of Corrections has failed to embrace basic tenets of sound correctional practice and laws protecting inmates from abusive, degrading or cruel treatment.”

After exhausting legal and administrative channels, prisoners are holding this hunger strike to bring these abusive prison conditions to light. This action comes at a time when many are speaking out against the expanding prison system in the United States in an effort to uphold their human dignity and basic human rights.

Letters signed by residents in Congressional District 9 will be delivered to the Senators office later in the week and concerned citizens from across Virginia and the nation will be pressuring the Virginia DOC to meet the prisoner’s demands.

Ten Demands of ROSP Hunger Strikers

We (Prisoners at Red Onion State Prison) demand the right to an adequate standard of living while in the custody of the state!

1. We demand fully cooked food, and access to a better quality of fresh fruit and vegetables. In addition, we demand increased portions on our trays, which allows us to meet our basic nutritional needs as defined by VDOC regulations.

2. We demand that every prisoner at ROSP have unrestricted access to complaint and grievance forms and other paperwork we may request.

3. We demand better communication between prisoners and higher- ranking guards. Presently higher-ranking guards invariably take the lower-ranking guards’ side in disputes between guards and prisoners, forcing the prisoner to act out in order to be heard. We demand that higher- ranking guards take prisoner complaints and grievances into consideration without prejudice.

4. We demand an end to torture in the form of indefinite segregation through the implementation of a fair and transparent process whereby prisoners can earn the right to be released from segregation. We demand that prison officials completely adhere to the security point system, insuring that prisoners are transferred to institutions that correspond with their particular security level.

5. We demand the right to an adequate standard of living, including access to quality materials that we may use to clean our own cells. Presently, we are forced to clean our entire cell, including the inside of our toilets, with a single sponge and our bare hands. This is unsanitary and promotes the spread of disease-carrying bacteria.

6. We demand the right to have 3rd party neutral observers visit and document the condition of the prisons to ensure an end to the corruption amongst prison officials and widespread human rights abuses of prisoners. Internal Affairs and Prison Administrator’s monitoring of prison conditions have not alleviated the dangerous circumstances we are living under while in custody of the state which include, but are not limited to: the threat of undue physical aggression by guards, sexual abuse and retaliatory measures, which violate prison policies and our human rights.

7. We demand to be informed of any and all changes to VDOC/IOP policies as soon as these changes are made.

8. We demand the right to adequate medical care. Our right to medical care is guaranteed under the eight amendment of the constitution, and thus the deliberate indifference of prison officials to our medical needs constitutes a violation of our constitutional rights. In particular, the toothpaste we are forced to purchase in the prison is a danger to our dental health and causes widespread gum disease and associated illnesses.

9. We demand our right as enumerated through VDOC policy, to a monthly haircut. Presently, we have been denied haircuts for nearly three months. We also demand to have our razors changed out on a weekly basis. The current practice of changing out the razors every three weeks leaves prisoners exposed to the risk of dangerous infections and injury.

10. We demand that there be no reprisals for any of the participants in the Hunger Strike. We are simply organizing in the interest of more humane living conditions.

Washington state prisoners produce frozen food for other prisoners as a cost savings-2400 calories-$5 a day

Inmates cook for inmates
By Alex Paul, Albany Democrat-Herald
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

LEBANON — Inmates at the new Lebanon jail will eat three meals a day prepared by inmates from the Washington State Department of Corrections, according to police Chief Mike Healy.

Healy and Lt. Ben Silverman informed the city council about the meal plan during a recent tour of the six-cell, 12-bed facility.

The new $10 million, 30,000-square-foot Justice Center opened last summer. Inmates so far have been short-term holds, Healy said, but the jail is starting to accept longer-term inmates, from 30 days up to one year.

The meals are purchased from the Airway Heights correctional facility near Spokane. In addition to serving the nutritional needs of Washington state inmates, the factory also sells products to 45 jails in Oregon, Washington and Montana.

More than 200 inmates work at the facility that produces 4,000 to 6,000 TV dinner-like frozen meals per day. The program started in the mid-1990s, according to Danielle Wiles, a spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Corrections.

Wiles said the program generates more than $2 million per year for the system.

Opening the door of a large upright freezer, Healy revealed stacks of frozen meals. The meals are nutritionally balanced and total no more than 2,400 calories per day.

Healy said the goal is to feed the inmates, not fatten them.

“We will supplement the dinners with fresh fruit and dairy,” Healy said.

The meals are purchased in three-month supplies. They are heated in a microwave oven.

Healy said the department will be able to feed inmates for about $5 each per day. Other company’s meal plans cost as much as $8 per day. At the city’s old jail, TV dinners were bought in bulk, Healy said.

A breakfast with scrambled eggs as the entree costs $1.60, while cold cereal costs just 72 cents per serving.

For lunch, a roast beef sandwich box meal costs $1.80 and a turkey sandwich meal is $1.55.

Supper entrees are more substantial, such as salisbury steak at $1.78, or fish and chips at $1.70.

“These are the same type and quality of sandwiches that are sold in many convenience stores and at some casinos,” Healy said.

The Linn County Jail contracts with a private company called Aramark to provide meals to inmates. Aramark staff members operate the jail’s kitchen, and meals cost about $1.50 each, according to Capt. Barry Baggett.