“Let them eat cake,” said Marie Antoinette of her starving peasants when she was informed of them having no bread. She was being facetious. There was no cake. She didn’t care about what they had or didn’t have to eat any more than America’s state prisons care about the pig slop their inmates are forced to attempt digesting.
Small portions of all but inedible chunks, bits, and slivers of sometimes unrecognizable food substances are plopped directly onto plastic trays to at the very least keep inmates alive during their times of confinement.
The Maryland Food & Prison Abolition Project makes a valid point on its website. Inmate or not, people get cranky when they’re hungry. They say that “Prison food in the United States is a public health and human rights crisis.”
Here’s where they hit the target. “By weaponizing the experience of eating, the state transforms one of our most basic needs into an everyday form of violence.”
The site goes on to say that “The short- and long-term effects of poor food conditions on incarcerated individuals’ health also constitutes a form of ‘premature death’—oftentimes damaging a person’s physical and mental health and well-being for the rest of their life.”
Prison food isn’t defined by the amount of nourishment it’ll provide. That’s inconsequential. It’s defined by how much it costs. The concept is to keep inmates alive, but not well, for as little money as possible.
To do this, prison food is ultra-processed, meaning it’s been jammed full of additives to make whatever it is stretch further, many of which are synthetic in origin. Inmates are eating plastic and God knows what else.
Using Maryland as an example, state prisons allocate only $3.83 per day to feed one inmate all three meals. This breaks down to $1.27 per meal. By comparison, a small bag of McDonald’s french fries sells for $1.39.
It’s okay if a Maryland state prison wants to try pulling the belt a little tighter as long as they don’t exceed the allotted $1.27. The correctional institution located in Jessup broke all state records by whittling its cost down to a mere $.80 per meal.
To reduce food costs, Maryland uses inmate labor in its own meat processing facility where there are no sides of beef hanging from ceiling hooks. What they process comes in barrels full of meat scraps and waste that even dog food manufacturers won’t purchase.
Marylands prison guidelines specifically say that “Food should not be used as a punishment on the inside.” But it is. The child-sized portions of non-nutritional discarded and artificially enhanced mystery slop being fed to inmates only help contribute to prison violence that runs counterproductive to rehabilitative efforts. The purpose of prisons.
We picked on Maryland, but only as an example of the food deprivation state inmates suffer nationwide. State-run prisons might be full of people who’ve done bad things, but the intent is to transform them into better people by taking away their freedom. It isn’t to instill hate and resentment in them because of a system that treated them as sub-human discarded waste.