Prison food convention video

Slate has a great little video from a prison-food convention. Thrill to made-in-China crinkle-cut carrots, gasp at a knife-locker, leer suggestively at the stick-free corn-dogs, and chuckle ironically at the revelation that the prison system demands higher quality food than the school system. Link (via Geekologie)


  1. i have been locked up, there is no way the food is better then school food. We got one half cup of grits and one biscuit for breakfast, no lunch, and one cup of pinto beans and a small piece of cornbread for dinner. For six months!

  2. My finance has just started a job as a correctional officer at a prison release facility. She *tried* eating the prison food, she really did. Officers get to eat free, and it would have saved us money. On two different occasions, it made her sick to her stomach. The second time she had even tried eating a baked potato, figuring, “how could they mess up a baked potato?” It was awful.

    Of course–I have no idea if the place she works at is representative or not. The real point, though is: you can’t just set up some prison-food convention, marvel at all the yummy food, and then reach the conclusion that prison food is either universally, or even on average or on median, *better* than school food. That would be lazy thinking.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  3. (Commenting anonymously because I still can’t log in…)

    The school system provides an OPTIONAL meal (i.e. kids can bring food from home) once a day, five days a week, 9 months a year. The prison system provides EVERY meal EVERY day for as long as the person is incarcerated. OF COURSE the prison meals need more scrutiny — if an inmate ends up with a vitamin deficiency causing gout, goiters, etc. guess who’s liable?

  4. Maricopa County is in Arizona. It’s also not a prison – it’s a county jail where inmates stay while awaiting trial or after conviction for certain offenses which result in one year or less.

    Arizona used to make its money from copper. After the mines were shut down, it turned to another commodity – people. The Federal government awards the state $35,000US per year per inmate (as of 1991, when I was locked up). If the state spends less than that, in addition to its own taxes for prisons, then it has a surplus to spend elsewhere. While I was in prison (1991 – 1995) the state abolished parole, removed education incentives, removed weight piles from the recreation yard, and started handing out more time. Arizona already has the 3-strikes rule, so when they put an 18-year-old kid away for 10 years, he has nothing to do but fight and be an inmate. He gets out when he’s 28 with no education and no skills, so he does the only thing he knows how to do – be a criminal. He goes down again. Three of these and he’s down for 25-to-life, regardless of the severity of his offenses.

    This is how Arizona makes its money.

    I was a clerk in the kitchen of one of the maximum security units in Florence, AZ for a year. Prison food sucks, but we do what we can with what we’re given. It’s not like it’s all TV dinners or frozen entrees – we prepared regimented meals according to a DOC dietician using real food products that were ordered, paid for from a budget, shipped, received, prepared, and delivered to 1000 inmates. Whenever possible we would prepare additional food and ship it out to the yard where people would enhance it with ingredients purchased from the commissary and make sandwiches or other special meals for a price. An entire economy exists around food in prison.

  5. “…chuckle ironically at the revelation that the prison system demands higher quality food than the school system.”

    I find this apauling as well, but I can at least understand the reason. The difference being that prisoners get *all* their food from these meals, while school students get 1 meal. Also, the school kids at least have options. If they (or their parents) don’t want them to eat that, they don’t have to. Pack a lunch, buy something else, whatever. Prisoners’ moms aren’t packing them PB&J instead of their prison meals.
    Basically it comes down to:
    At school, you don’t like it, don’t eat it.
    In prison, you don’t like it? Tough shit.

  6. Hey, Maricopa! Wooo Arizona!

    True story: I went to a small liberal arts college, and our food was /terrible/. Like, cereal for dinner everyday for a year terrible. We had a contract with Sodexho catering, which has tiers of services. Also in our little town was a prison. When my college’s newspaper began to investigate the matter, we discovered that the prison also used Sodexho. . .and had a higher tier of quality and service than we did. The prison had better food than my private college. Last year, the estimated cost of attending my school was $38k.

  7. I did 5 months at Club-Fed for some white-collar stuff. From what I’ve heard, I totally lucked out compared to those in state and county lock-up. 6 days a week it was poor to mediocre, but once a week they let the inmates cook and the meal was absolutely outstanding. I had some menudo, in prison, that was the best I’ve had in my life. I hope that inmate has gone on to be a pro chef. And there were some ex-mobster types who made cannolis that were to die for. YUM!

  8. Yeah….prison is a big, profitable business. Too bad that, according to Human Rights Watch, nearly three quarters of new admissions to state prisons were convicted of nonviolent crimes.

  9. I was amazed at the amount of heavy carb. low protein dietary food seemed to be shown. And nothing in terms of veggies.

    And for the lady at the convention who seemed shocked that prisoners food would have more food value is a bit of an idiot. Kids at school eat at home and school prisoners do not have that option.

    BTW, Washingston State DOC tends to use more food products from mainline food services such as Sysco and Food Services of America as well as food that is actually prepared by the prison system food preparation.

  10. @14: A low-protein diet makes people more submissive and less likely to lash out. Cults have been doing it for ages.

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