|Weston A. Price Foundation
|Contact: Kimberly Hartke
703-860-2711, cell 703-675-5557
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
BUDGET SHORTFALLS HIT ILLINOIS PRISON DIET
State Ignores Win-Win Solution
WASHINGTON, DC, July 20, 2010: Budget shortfalls and unpaid bills have forced a virtually meatless diet on Illinois prisoners, exacerbating health problems and raising tensions among the state’s prison population.
The quality of prison food has been reduced “to the point that it’s nearly inedible,” said Ken Kleinlein, president of the union local at Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mount Sterling, Illinois, noting that much of the food is soy-based or pure soy. “When the meals are like this, it puts a huge strain on the inmate population.”
Until recently, inmates received several meals containing chicken, turkey or pork each week; but recent unpaid bills by the Illinois Department of Corrections has forced elimination of these items, resulting in soy-based meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has a huge surplus of chicken legs, which it sends to China and other countries overseas.
Soy was introduced into the prisons as a substitute for meat in January 2003, when Blagojevich became governor. Archer Daniel Midlands, a major contributor to Blagojevich’s campaign, was the main beneficiary of the new prison food policy.
In the wake of the dietary change, prisoners began to suffer from a variety of health problems. “We have heard from over two hundred prisoners in the state of Illinois,” said Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. “The most common complaint is digestive disorders, including severe constipation, debilitating diarrhea, vomiting and extreme pain after eating,” said Fallon Morell. “Skin problems, thyroid disorders and endocrine disruption leading to breast development are also common.”
The Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit nutrition education organization, is supporting the case of Harris et al. v. Brown, et al., Case No. 3:07-cv-03225, which is currently pending before the Honorable Harold Baker in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. The suit seeks an injunction putting a halt to the use of a soy-laden diet in the prison system.
“When prisoners unable to tolerate soy request a soy-free diet, they are told to purchase commissary food or starve,” said Fallon Morell. “Since most of the prisoners cannot afford commissary food, many of them are either starving or suffering severe health consequences. Department of Corrections officials justify the soy-based meals as a cost-cutting measure, but increased health care costs and pending liability for not supplying life-sustaining meals have the potential to make the soy-based meals very expensive for the state of Illinois.” Several Supreme Court decisions have confirmed the right of prisoners to a diet that sustains their health. Before the recent budget crisis, prisoners at least got meat several times per week.
Government officials in Illinois and other states face a dilemma of budget shortfalls and the need to feed over 40,000 prisoners daily. But, until recently, prisoners raised their own food at no cost to the state.
The Vandalia prison complex still has the equipment and buildings for a dairy farm, as well as facilities to butcher, package and ship meat to every prison in Illinois. Menard prison in Chester, Illinois has enough acreage to raise cattle, hogs and chickens, along with barns and buildings for a butcher shop. Mt. Sterling Correctional Center has processing facilities as well. All these were mothballed not more than twenty years ago when the state began contracting with private parties for prison food.
Prisoners in the state of Virginia raise grass-fed meat in a state park; the excess is sold to the Pennsylvania prison system, so the state actually makes money on the venture. Similarly, in Illinois, excess beef, pork, eggs, poultry and dairy products could be sold on the open market to offset the cost of security personnel, or used in food give-away programs.
Of additional benefit, most prisoners would welcome the chance to work outside in a farm environment, or in a butcher shop learning new skills. Every prison has enough land for a vegetable garden, another outlet for men forced to spend the entire day inside.
“A self-supporting farm program for Illinois prisons is a win-win proposition,” says Fallon Morell. “The prisoners would be well fed and healthy, they would have meaningful work, and the state would save millions of taxpayer dollars every year.”
The Weston A. Price Foundation is a non-profit nutrition education foundation dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the human diet through education, research and activism. The Foundation is spearheading a national campaign to warn consumers about the dangers of modern soy foods. Please visit their website www.westonaprice.org to learn more about the Foundation’s Soy Alert! campaign.