Deliberate withholding of nutritious food or substitution of tainted or otherwise sickening food, with the effect of causing substantial weight loss, vomiting, stomach pains, and maybe an anal fissure (which is no fun at all, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anal_fissure (visited March 15, 2012)), or other severe hardship, would violate the Eighth Amendment.
— Judge Richard Posner, in Tuesday’s ruling in Prude v. Clarke. The Seventh Circuit reinstated a lawsuit filed by a prisoner who alleged that being fed nutriloaf (a.k.a. Nutraloaf) in the Milwaukee County Jail amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
(Judge Posner had more strong words to say about nutriloaf, as well an in-depth analysis to answer this crucial question: what the heck is nutriloaf?)
The short answer is, “we have no idea”:
Not that all nutriloaf is unhealthful, though all is reputed to have an unpleasant taste. But we do not know the recipe for the nutriloaf that was served the plaintiff, or whether the ingredients were tainted or otherwise unhealthful, because of the defendants’ failure to comply with the plaintiff’s discovery demands. The defendants decided to defy rather than to defend. The uncontradicted evidence is that other prisoners in the jail also vomited after eating the nutriloaf, and this suggests that it was indeed inedible.
The best part of waking up… is vomit in your cell?
As far as local police are concerned, it really seems as if they could not care less. Judge Posner railed on them for bringing in a witness who might as well have been picked up off the roadside. The witness signed a “preposterous affidavit” claiming that “Nutraloaf has been determined to be a nutritious substance for regular meals.”
That’s not what Judge Posner wanted to hear:
No evidence was presented concerning the recipe for or ingredients of the nutriloaf that was served at the county jail during the plaintiff’s sojourns there. “Nutriloaf” isn’t a proprietary food like Hostess Twinkies but, like “meatloaf” or “beef stew,” a term for a composite food the recipe of which can vary from institution to institution, or even from day to day within an institution; nutriloaf could meet requirements for calories and protein one day yet be poisonous the next if, for example, made from leftovers that had spoiled. The recipe was among the items of information that the plaintiff sought in discovery and that the defendants refused to produce.
Maybe we should be grateful. When it comes to nutriloaf, ignorance is probably bliss.
Prude v. Clarke [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit]
For One Prisoner, Nutriloaf Diet May Violate Eighth Amendment, Posner Opinion Says [ABA Journal]
Taste-Testing Nutraloaf: The prison food that just might be unconstitutionally bad. [Slate]