Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Soy Diet for Illinois Prisoners

UPDATE ON SOY LAWSUIT – OCTOBER 2011

 

JUDGE GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO SOY LAWSUIT

WASHINGTON, DC. October 21, 2011.  Honorable Judge Harold Baker of the United States District Court for the central district of Illinois has ruled that litigation challenging the use of soy foods in Illinois prisons will go forward. Full Story

 

UPDATE ON SOY LAWSUITJUNE 2010

The Foundation has been funding litigation involving a challenge to the Illinois Department of Correction’s use of soy laden foods in the diet it provides to inmates incarcerated in Illinois.  The Foundation has been involved in this suit since June 2009.  First and foremost, the Foundation is seeking an injunction against serving soy-laden meals to Illinois prisoners. The fund is also helping eight inmates challenge their being fed soy-laden food by claiming that the feeding of soy-laden food constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the eighth amendment to the Constitution, and that it is a denial of their liberty in violation of their due process rights under the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution.  The lawsuit also alleges that the private corporation and its private doctors, Wexford health services, inc., have been negligent in failing to provide adequate medical care to each of the plaintiffs who are suffering bodily injury and adverse health effects from being fed too much soy.


The case is pending in the United States District Court for the central district of Illinois before the Honorable Judge Baker.

Both the state of Illinois and Wexford have filed summary judgment motions arguing that they should receive a pre-trial judgment in the case because none of the inmates has “exhausted” his administrative remedies.  In other words, the State and Wexford are arguing that none of the inmates, before they filed their complaint, properly complained to prison officials about the effects that the soy diet is having on their body.  The inmates have opposed these motions for summary judgment and have presented a plethora of evidence that they have indeed, for several years, complained to prison officials about the harmful effects of soy on their bodies, but that the prison officials have ignored these complaints and have done nothing about it.  The inmates have also presented a plethora of evidence to the court to show that they have also, for several years, complained to Wexford and its subsidiary doctors about the harmful effects of soy on their bodies and that the Wexford doctors have ignored these complaints.

The matter is pending before Judge Baker on the State’s and Wexford’s motions to dismiss.  we expect a ruling from the court sometime before the end of 2010.  If the motions are denied then the case will go forward to a trial on the merits, which likely will go forward sometime late next year.

BACKGROUND

When Rod Blagojevich was elected governor of Illinois in 2002, he immediately made a change in the prison diets. Beginning in January 2003, inmates began receiving a diet largely based on processed soy protein, with very little meat. In most meals, small amounts of meat or meat by-products are mixed with 60-70 percent soy protein; fake soy cheese has replaced real cheese; and soy flour or soy protein is now added to most of the baked goods.

The governor’s justification for replacing nutritious meat and cheese with toxic soy protein was financial-to lower the enormous costs of running the Illinois Department of Corrections. However, the likely reason is payback for campaign contributions from Archer Daniels Midland, the main supplier of soy products to the Illinois prisons.

Suffering of Inmates

Early in 2007, the Weston A. Price Foundation began hearing from inmates who were suffering from myriad serious health problems due to the large amounts of soy in the diet. These prisoners had found us through the Soy Alert! section of our website. Complaints include chronic and painful constipation alternating with debilitating diarrhea, vomiting after eating, sharp pains in the digestive tract, especially after consuming soy, passing out, heart palpitations, rashes, acne, insomnia, panic attacks, depression and symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as low body temperature (feeling cold all the time), brain fog, fatigue, weight gain, frequent infections and enlarged thyroid gland. Since soy contains anti-fertility compounds, many young prisoners may be unable to father children after their release.

The suffering of these men is intense and medical care is palliative at best. Many have had sections of their digestive tract removed, but all requests for a soy-free diet are denied. The men are told, “If you don’t like the food, don’t eat it.” That means that unless they can afford to purchase commissary food, they must eat the soy food or starve.

Lawsuit

The Weston A. Price Foundation has hired an attorney to represent several inmates incarcerated in the Illinois Department of Corrections system. The Foundation’s attorney has entered his appearance on behalf of three inmates, has had contacts with several other inmates, has served several subpoenas upon the wardens of several facilities for documents and other information, and has informed the Court that additional inmates will soon be named in an amended complaint.

The lead case is captioned Harris et al. v. Brown, et al., Case No. 3:07-cv-03225, and is currently pending before the Honorable Harold Baker in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. The Foundation has until May 30th to file its amended complaint and the Defendants have 30 days after the complaint is filed to file their respective answers. The suit seeks an injunction putting a halt to the use of a soy-laden diet in the prison system.

How You Can Help

  • Donations to the Weston A. Price Foundation (Soy Alert! Campaign) can help with the high cost of legal representation.
  • Letters to the press, Illinois elected officials (including the governor and attorney general of Illinois) and even U.S. Congressional representatives can alert others to this serious situation-which threatens not only the health of inmates but the future of fiscal solvency in the state of Illinois-because personal injury lawsuits are bound to follow.
  • Write to the U.S. Department of Justice and request that they initiate an investigation and enforcement action under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 United States Code Section 1997a, also known as the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). A sample letter is given below.

For Relatives of Inmates

  • The soy diet, especially when consumed in large amounts for a lengthy period of time, will destroy the health of your loved one in prison. The most important way you can help is to send your incarcerated relative money to purchase commissary food.
  • Write or visit your elected officials about this situation. This contact can be especially effective from those who know on a first-hand basis the suffering the soy diet has caused.
  • Write to the U. S. Department of Justice and request that they initiate an investigation and enforcement action under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 United States Code Section 1997a, also known as the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). A sample letter is given below.

For Inmates

  • Follow procedure and submit grievance reports, delineating your health problems and requesting a soy-free diet.
  • Be sure to keep copies of all grievance reports and medical records.
  • If you are suffering from a swollen thryoid gland, low body temperature, fatigue, trouble concentrating and/or weight gain, request that you be given a blood test for thyroid hormones. If your TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) is above 4.5 mU/L and you also suffer from one or more of these symptoms, you likely suffer from thryoid disease (such as Hashimoto’s disease). The doctors should prescribe thryoid replacement therapy and give you a soy-free diet.
  • Use your commissary money wisely to purchase healthy foods. Good choices include sardines, tuna and salmon, cheese, summer sausage (Editor’s Note: summer sausage now has soy), Spam (for vitamin D and healthy fats), pork cracklings and plain rice. Avoid sweets, chips, sodas, etc. as these make you more vulnerable to the harmful effects of soy.

For Further Information


Sample Letter Sent By A Relative Of An Inmate

[Date]

Honorable Eric Holder, Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20530

Copy to:
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Special Counsel
U.S. Department of Justice
Northern District of Illinois
Federal Building
219 South Dearborn Street, 5th Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60604

Dear Sirs:

I am writing to request that you initiate an investigation and enforcement action under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 United States Code Section 1997a, also known as the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA).

I have a relative, [first name, last name, identification number], who is presently incarcerated in [name of facility]. He has been incarcerated there since [date of incarceration]. He has become ill with the following symptoms since the Illinois Department of Corrections began feeding a soy-based diet in January 2003: [List symptoms].

He has not been able to get appropriate medical care from the prison staff and I am concerned about the long-term effects of this soy diet on his health. According to information posted in the FDA’s Poisonous Plant Database and from research published in medical journals over the past sixty years, soy has the potential to cause serious health problems, especially if consumed in large amounts. This diet may make it impossible for [name of inmate] to engage in necessary activities to earn his living after his release and may even cause him to have medical problems that will be very costly to the state of Illinois.

According to law, prisoners are entitled to “nutritionally adequate food” (Ramos v Lamm, 639.2d 559, 1980). According to Illinois law, “Infliction of unnecessary suffering on prisoner by failure to treat his medical needs is inconsistent with contemporary standards of decency and violates the Eighth Amendment” (Key Note 7. Criminal Law 1213).

The justification for the switch from beef to soy is to save money, but according to one court case, “A lack of financing is not a defense to a failure to satisfy minimum constitutional standards in prisons” (Duran v. Anaya, 642, Supp. 510 (DNM 1986), page 525, paragraph 6).

I urge you to look into this situation and take action to reinstate a nutritious diet for the inmates in Illinois prisons, before the soy diet irreparably destroys their health.

Sincerely yours,

 

[Name] [Address] [City, State, Zip]

Sample Letter Sent By A Concerned Citizen

[Date]

Honorable Eric Holder, Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20530

Copy to:
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Special Counsel
U.S. Department of Justice
Northern District of Illinois
Federal Building
219 South Dearborn Street, 5th Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60604

Dear Sirs:

I am writing to request that you initiate an investigation and enforcement action under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 United States Code Section 1997a, also known as the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA).

I am concerned about the practice of feeding a soy-based diet to inmates in the Illinois prisons, which was initiated in January of 2003. According to information posted in the FDA’s Poisonous Plant Database and from research published in medical journals over the past sixty years, soy has the potential to cause serious health problems, especially if consumed in large amounts.. This diet may make it impossible for those incarcerated in Illinois to engage in necessary activities to earn their living after their release and may even cause them to have medical problems that will be very costly to the state of Illinois.

According to law, prisoners are entitled to “nutritionally adequate food” (Ramos v Lamm, 639.2d 559, 1980). According to Illinois law, “Infliction of unnecessary suffering on prisoner by failure to treat his medical needs is inconsistent with contemporary standards of decency and violates the Eighth Amendment” (Key Note 7. Criminal Law 1213).

The justification for the switch from beef to soy is to save money, but according to one court case, “A lack of financing is not a defense to a failure to satisfy minimum constitutional standards in prisons” (Duran v. Anaya, 642, Supp. 510 (DNM 1986), page 525, paragraph 6).

I urge you to look into this situation and take action to reinstate a nutritious diet for the inmates in Illinois prisons, before the soy diet irreparably destroys their health.

Sincerely yours,

 

[Name] [Address] [City, State, Zip]

 


FLORIDA PRISONER CHALLENGES SOY-LADEN PRISON DIET
Lawsuit Also Alleges Price-Gouging in Commissary Services

WASHINGTON, DC, October 31, 2011:  Honorable Judge James O. Shelfer of the Second Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, Florida has ruled that defendants will be given a twenty-five-day extension in which to respond to the plaintiff’s multi-count complaint challenging the soy-laden diet in Florida prisons and a commissary price-gouging scheme. Full Story

 

More on this situation here: Soy in Illinois Prisons Case

Related links

Tim Boyd was born and raised in Ohio, graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a degree in computer engineering, and worked in the defense industry in Northern Virginia for over 20 years. During that time, a slight case of arthritis led him to discover that nutrition makes a difference and nutrition became a serious hobby. After a pleasant and satisfying run in the electronics field, he decided he wanted to do something more important. He is now arthritis free and enjoying his dream job working for the Weston A. Price Foundation.

© 2013 The Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts.