Rotten and Rat-Infested: The Appalling Food and Healthcare Conditions Facing Inmates in U.S. Prisons

Source: In These Times

We rarely see what goes on inside of U.S. prisons, besides the occasional reports of riots, suicides or corruption scandals that trickle out of an otherwise opaque institution. But a new study looking into prison conditions nationwide shines light on the bleak reality of everyday life behind bars.

The study, conducted by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC)—an affiliate of the Industrial Workers of the World and Research Action Cooperative—surveyed 123 incarcerated individuals across 21 states. The majority of the participants were from state facilities, but also included prisoners from federal institutions and immigrant detention centers, mostly from Missouri, Texas and California.

The study found that day-to-day life inside of these prisons can be grim, marked by harsh, often borderline inhumane conditions in the provision of food and healthcare, causing inmates both hunger and illness.

“Not for human consumption”

In the voluntary survey, seven in ten respondents described poor-quality food, often with only occasional servings of fresh vegetables or fruit. Reports of spoiled and foul food were rampant: Some inmates claimed they spotted “bugs or rocks” in their meals, were provided food that was years past the expiration date, or identified “food containers… labeled not fit for human consumption.” Nearly two-thirds of respondents reported that, over the past year, they had been sickened by prison food, suffering ailments including diarrhea and food poisoning.

Continue reading