United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect

What Inmates Eat on $2.45 a day - E-mail Responses

Dear Cayenne: 

Before I became MAC Chairman, in Chino Prison. I started out filling  out a daily survey "three times a day" of the food that we ate. At that time I had over 12 years experience within the Restaurant industry so I had a great amount of knowledge in this area. And what I found out was that the food was not being served at the proper temperature, food products were left out un-refrigerated, bacteria starts and to grow. Food temperatures should be kept at below 40 degrees or above 140 degrees. I always found the food product to be above 40 degrees and below 140 degrees. 

I was not provided a thermometer But, from my experience I can taste the food and tell approx.: the temperature. If you take a bite of food you can tell it is room temperature. I also found that the steam table was not working properly, and all my reports and complaint fell on deaf ears. After about 6 months of complaining I gave up the position. " I was wasting my time." I also noted that they were not serving proper portions of food the menu may say 2 ounces of beans you often received less, I also noted that they were not using the proper ladles 2 ounce ladles or 4 ounce serving spoons. 

The kitchen managers often gave the inmates smaller utensils to cut down on there food cost. And was often met with hostility from the kitchen managers. But, I had permission from the Captain. Inmates also gave out smaller portions so that they could have more food for them self's and bring food back to there cells. Milk
was served in either 4 ounce or 8 ounce containers I forget which but added up to about 3 sips. You always left hungry. 

The bag lunches are truly a joke, the meat you ate if you want to call in that was very poor quality even the cat's "animals" running around the prison would not eat it, the inmates often boiled the meat before eating it. This was my professional experience: 

Charles Wesley
Former manager of Red Robin Restaurants

Dear Charles:

Thank you for bringing even MORE insight to the unhealthy practices of food handling in California's prisons.  I have viewed health department reports about massive RODENT infestation statewide as well.

The State surely saves money when the inmates are scared to death to eat the slop.

We in the UNION need to decide what we're going to do about this. Picket?  Bombard the legislators with phone calls and faxes?  Write letters to the editors?  What do you think we should DO about it? We are far from helpless when everyone participates.

B. Cayenne Bird
Some people know one thing to do to fight back.  Deborah D.J. has already fired
this off to the LA Times in support of Jenifer Warren's article.

Cayenne,  I just sent this to the LA Times, I've been meaning to respond to Jenifer's piece. Dear Editor: Jenifer Warren wrote a very funny piece recently about feeding state prisoners for $2.45 a day. She quotes Sue Sommerset, who oversees food supplied to our stateís 33 prisons, as saying that there has been no increase in the $2.45 daily meal rate for 14 years. 

Wow, I wish I could say the same about my home food budget, which I estimate has doubled . Since the $2.45 has held steady, guess which direction quality and
quantity have gone. How do adult inmates survive? If they have some money, which at 20 cents an hour for prison jobs is hard to come by, they can buy some
extras at the canteen, unless the prison is on lockdown, which happens frequently.

And if they have supportive family members with dollars to spare, they can receive one box of very specific snacks and toiletries every three months. And the rest? I donít think this is a funny subject. If we for our safety must assume responsibility for 160,000 individuals, we surely assume the obligation of providing them sufficient food.

Deborah D. J.

With almost constant lockdowns (either modified or full lockdowns, whatever the word game) there is no access to canteen.  Inmates without family to send them boxes are literally starving.  What should we DO about this?
Dear Cayenne:

What should we do about our starving loved ones?

The senator's replies in Warren's article are almost carbon copy to that given me by my letter of complaint about the food at High Desert. I wrote to my Assemblyman at the time, Aanestad, who wrote back that he checked with the CDC and the CDC says their menu is plentiful and healtthy. The menu is a joke, of  which a copy was given to me. WHat's served is not what it says on the menu. My husband says he frequently can't eat at all, as the food is not edible, unrecognizable and gross looking. He says he has grown accustomed to not eating, as his stomach has shrunk and the hunger has subsided. 

Letters to politicians are like a joke. my father-in-law got the same result from his local jokester, Cardoza. He sent me a copy of his letter and Cardoza's reply. The politicians and the CDC are neck and neck. What can you do when the politicians "check with the CDC" and the CDC replies that all is well? My husband had an idea for people to go to work for the CDC and break it up from within, but I'm too old! 


Dear Linda:
The politicians almost never personally read their mail. A visit to the capitol on any given day will show that ivy league young people, most under the age of 30, run
things. All you need to do to find out that they don't read their mail is sit through the legislative hearings and hear all the dumb questions they ask and dumb answers they accept as truth.

We're not to old to write, picket and vote the bums out of office by recruiting others into the UNION. There is nothing more powerful than a massive, well-funded citizens group of noisemakers on standby alert.  When we need the
people to react to emergencies, it's too late to find and train them, that's why this must be a constant process.

Hand out UNION flyers everywhere you go.


We're going to post your comments, articles and solutions to  the food mess at this webpage.  Tell me what is similar to the Mule Creek complaint I sent you at your prison. What is different?  Remember the media is banned so they have no idea what's going on unless YOU tell them the story.

Poor food handling is one of the reasons why infectious diseases make any sentence to prison a potential death sentence.  This is not a light matter.  Health should be a priority and a great deal put into diets and disease prevention.  One way or another, the taxpayers are going to pay for this neglect.

Not to mention the extra fights that hungry men and women can get into.  We wouldn't cage up animals and not feed them, give them proper medical and dental care, allow disease to be spread so easily.

These conditions are dispicable, what are we going to do about it?  Imagine if smallpox in the aerosol can causes just one outbreak?  With these terrible practices,
our loved ones are victims of an unbearably incompetent and callous system. When the legislators laugh, they are giving their permission for it to continue.

This is where the UNION ought to step in and be heard. Don't you agree?


Dear Cayenne:

The fact that the legislators would laugh when you reported the inmates are hungry is a strong indication that they love their power to torture people.  We must
remember that the people in prison are the mentally ill, elderly, terminally ill, young people who have done very little wrong, addicts.  Punishing is not healing.  Food
needs to be a healing part of life.  Sadistic is a good description of anyone who would laugh at this situation.

Susan Randall

Cayenne, the complaint from Mule Creek reads:

C. Non-Sensitive Needs Food Handlers MCSP houses approximately 2,350 sensitive-needs inmates (SNIs) on sub-facilities "A" and "B". Sub-facility "C" houses approximately 1,180 inmates who do not have sensitive needs. However, all food for the entire prison population is prepared in the Facility "C" main kitchen by inmates who do not have sensitive needs. Inmates without sensitive needs despise inmates who do have sensitive needs. 

They frequently contaminate our food and do whatever they can get away with to express their contempt for us. We frequently find sand, hair, metal, and other
unexplainable items in our food. 

We feel that MCSP's main kitchen should be located on a sensitive-needs yard and operated by sensitive-needs inmates to protect us from the malicious and sadistic
acts committed against us by inmates who do not have sensitive needs. We were informed by staff several months ago that an inmate on Facility "C" had been
caught urinating in Jell-0 designated for Facility "B". We do not know how true that rumor was, but we frequently hear such stories which cause us great concern as a population for our health and safety. 


This exact practice happens at Lancaster, my husband had worked on mainline kitchens for years and is well aware of what inmates do to sensitive needs inmates
food.  At Lancaster there has been everything from fecal matter to cleaning fluid to God knows what put in the food.  This is what they do in Calipatria, the food is made on A Yard and none of it says where its going so the inmates are unaware of what yard its going to so the sensitive needs inmates food isn't contaminated with something, this happened after razor blades were food in the food on the sensitive needs yard.

Also at Lancaster with my husband being in Ad-Seg, he says the food is totally different from that on C Yard, not only is he eating again but he says they get
"full" portions and the actual food for example if they had enchiladas C Yard would just get the corn tortilla, NO JOKE!!!


Everyone should write a note TODAY or TOMORROW at the latest about the extremely dangerous conditions for inmates around food and its handling to the LA Times, in response to the story she wrote.  When was the last time you ever saw Food discussed?  This is your chance to inform the public and the media that people are being returned to their communities much sicker than before they were
incarcerated. For the Times, keep it under 150 words.  If they see many letters,
we might see another story.   letters@latimes.com

June 27, 2002

Dear Cayenne, 

I spoke to my girlfriend today and it confirms what you have said that the Dept of corrections is starving the prisoners. I wondered why she had been asking for just food boxes? 

I send her a box addressed to other  inmates that don't have anyone to send them a box.We give them a pair of shoes or perfume and she gets everything else. It's a 
way to beat the system.Lately she has just asked for food.

I wondered why and now I know. 30 lbs of food I send each month to different inmate so I can feed my girlfriend. By the way she is just 5'1" and weight is about 120lbs. How do the others get by.

Frank C

Dear Frank:

The prisoners are hungry.  It is up to the UNION to rail about it.  They cannot fight for themselves, there is no help except us.

Write  letters@latimes.com  and alert the journalists and editors.  They are banned from prisons and have no way to know what goes on there.  Don't forget to mention the women rarely even get tampons or sanitary napkins.

B. Cayenne Bird

Information on the food at Calipatria.  I am now sifting through what he has shared and asking him for more details.  He has talked a great deal about the time they are allowed (or not allowed) to eat commenting on the wide variations in time allowed causing the men to gulp their food because they never know how much time the CO will permit. At times, they have had as little as 5 minutes to eat.  On occasion they have the full 20 which is the time allowed under Title 15.  Rarely do they get
15 minutes.

More often it is less time than this. It causes the men to select the food they think looks best on their plate and then wolf that down leaving the less desirable looking until moments later to see how much time they will have to consume that. Many times they do not have time to finish those portions and so they go hungry sometimes not for the lack of food (which is also a problem) but because they are not given the time necessary to eat what they have been served. 

He says if there is a pretty female CO in the hallway outside the mess hall the inmates can be certain to get the full 20 minutes to eat as the CO responsible for them will almost always be busy joking and flirting with the female officer.  At those times the inmates know their meal will be a little more relaxed and they will have at least the full 20 minutes allowed under Title 15 because their CO will
be distracted & he will be paying less attention to the time.

The need to gulp food comes about because the men do not know how much time they will be allowed to eat at any given meal.  There is high stress at mealtimes and much indigestion results. When people outside "in the real world" complain that prisoner's have 3 square meals a day, they need to be reminded that these meals involve much stress and a gulping and wolfing down process that is not conducive to health.  These moments occur because the prisoners are often uncertain (and afraid) and keenly aware of each guard's moods and whims of the moment. 



 What Inmates Eat on $2.45 A Day

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