Let Them Eat Nothing – No Lunch for Prisoners

A growing number of U.S. prisons are taking steps to shatter any illusion that the role of prisons is to rehabilitate rather than merely punish. Eliminating lunch on weekends is gaining ground. The New York Times recently reported that Texas prisons scrapped mid-day meals on Saturday and Sunday last April. Still available are “brunch” from 5 to 7 a.m. and dinner between 4 and 6:30 p.m. Then last month they chopped last meals for inmates scheduled for execution.

Texas is not alone in skirting American Correctional Association standards by reducing the number of meals served. Ohio, Arizona, Georgia and Indiana all operate their food services on reduced schedules. Georgia inmates go three days without lunch, Friday through Sunday.

Slashing food budgets may create other financial headaches. On October 11th, inmates in a privately operated Oklahoma prison rioted over the poor quality of food. Kentucky prisoners rioted in 2009 when they were served soup filled with worms and burritos containing human feces. That same year, inmates in a privately-run prison in Texas set fire to the facility to protest inadequate food and health care.

More Than Money at Stake

The practice of cutting meals or serving mediocre food seems like a simple budgetary issue, but the implications may be far reaching. A study of the impact of mild hunger on the decisions made by eight Israeli judges showed they made harsher parole decisions before meal breaks. After analyzing more than 1,000 decisions made by eight experienced judges over a period of 50 days, the researchers found, “The proportion of favorable rulings fell from about 65 percent to nearly zero during each session separated by the two food breaks, leaping back to 65 percent immediately after the breaks. If judges are influenced by mild hunger, prisoners surely are too.

A study currently underway in the U.K. is testing the link between poor diet and violence in prison populations. It is based on the findings of 2002 study showing that prisoners receiving nutritional supplements committed fewer violent offenses. The lead researcher, Bernard Gesch, says the link between behavior and diet is not new. Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso saw a connection between terrorism and poor diet in 1892.  Many other studies showing links between diet and behavior are analyzed in a report called, “Changing Diets, Changing Minds: how food affects mental health and behaviour.”

The Impact Is Still Unknown

The impact of reducing the number of meals served to inmates has not yet been the subject of a study. So far the prisons reducing the number of meals are not reporting increases in behavioral problems. In an era of tight budgets, more prisons are likely to join the experiment.

Inmates who protest will not find much sympathy from Texas State Senator John Whitmore. The Democratic chair of the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee responded bluntly to questions about the cuts: “If they don’t like the menu, don’t come there in the first place.”

Related Care2 Stories

Prison Labor – It’s Not Just for Farms Anymore

The U.S. Prison System: A Multimillion-Dollar Industry

Violence Rising in Crowded Canadian Prisons

Photo from Rennett Stowe via Flickr Creative Commons


Patricia H.
Patricia H.4 years ago

This is cruel and unusual punishment

Cinzia B.
Cynthia B4 years ago

It's cruel

Diane L.
Diane L5 years ago

Catt R., you're missing 99% of the points made. We're all on Care.2 (with a few obvious exceptions) because we care about issues, and one of the ones I care about is writing about facts and stating truths. Prisons have always existed and always will. We need places to incarcerate those who would do us harm when we can't defend ourselves, and nobody is advocating for victimless crimes be put to death or shown inhumane treatment. I guess you would compare a serial killer or rapist, a child molester with someone who kites a credit card or drives off without paying for gas? I don't. So WHAT if they're hired out for labor? Do you ever see the roads being cleaned up from litter? Who do you think those people are? What about those who fight wildfires? Watch "Pitbulls and Parolees". Those were PRISONERS in the fire fighting suits.

Jane, where are you coming up with forcing prisoners to eat worms? In case you never knew, they actually SELL insects for human consumption and many think they are a delicacy........"chocolate covered ants", for instance. Okay, if you're so concerned about what they eat at Folsom, or whatever one is closest to where you live, why don't you volunteer there and make sure they get caviar and T-bone steak all the time? I think they probably do get steak, probably a lot more often than most of the homeless.

Donna Pulous
Donna Pulous5 years ago

Hmm, I don't get this.With a very small fraction of people whom are actually innocent, Prison is just that,no fun and games.People crying about unfair treatment. Seems to me you should have thought about that beforehand.If I was the victim of a violent crime, my parents and family would not give a shit less if whoever did it, was being fed properly or had tv or internet connection or if they were all warm in their cell.It's called Prison, ladies and gentleman, and 95 times out of 100, you did something bad enough to be put there.Do the crime and you do the time quit whining about abuses.Life isn't fair, deal with it and get on with your life.I am all for rights but you forfeit those when you take someone's life, deal drugs, rape, etc.I care about innocent lives and those whom can not speak for themselves, namely children and animals.But I draw the line when somebody kills someone for 5.00 in a robbery or rapes an elderly woman, or kills their child because they wouldn't stop crying!

Catt R.
Catt R5 years ago

Eric..... having served time in a state-run prison that was somewhat humane does NOT make you an expert on what goes on in the private prisons...... which BTW are fighting the group that monitors government run prisons for human rights violations...... The 'Private' prisons are taking the stance that how they treat the inmates is completely up to them..... that they have NO HUMAN RIGHTS...... they are being placed on chain gangs and hired out as labor .... the prison of course gets paid, not the workers.... Support the concept that the owners of the prisons can help write laws... pay the lawmakers to pass those laws..... charge the state 35% more for housing the prisoners; hire them out as 'legal slaves' not feed them and refuse human rights inspections of the facility if you like.......................... but watch your step, you have not been a perfect citizen.... what if the next law they write sends you back to prison because they decide to increase your sentence, even after all this time?? all it would take it for them to help write the law, and pay the lawmakers to pass it...... and you get to be on a chain gang to ---- you are right........ you should have thought of that before you did the crime.

Catt R.
Catt R5 years ago

I can not believe some of you have account on Care2.... why would you bother??? you believe it is okay to lock up a human being, over bullshit and then not even give then adequate food.

Again why would you even have an account on Care2..... are you the same people who
cheered about Troy Davis' murder taking place?????

Christopher M.
Christopher M.5 years ago

Armando Valladares. a former Cuban political prisoner, wrote that the guards euphemistically served "Split peas with proteins". The proteins were dead worms killed during the canning process. He wrote "You have to rationalize the situation. The little worms were dead so there was no harm in eating them. And the worms were protein."

Also wrote about passing messages across one cell block to another with fishing line until a bird sat on the fishing line and gave it away. Arrggh.

From Reader's Digest.

Christopher M.
Christopher M.5 years ago

Let them eat sh*t is more like it. Or worms. The Diet of Worms.

Christopher M.
Christopher M.5 years ago

What study shows a correlation between body size and IQ? I am well educated. Details on request.

Diane L.
Diane L5 years ago

Not only do prison inmates have internet access, appears they are available in other places, including those residing in mental health facilities. It's Monday, Jane? You missed a day of making me laugh. Well, you made up for it, actually. Your last comment was a doozie, even for you. Guess Customer Care is laughing too hard to delete your ravings as well, since you've violated almost every rule in the C.O.C. BTW, the "dude" in the photo you keep slamming shares a name with the main person in Customer Support, so you might re-think making fun of that name.

"I wouldn't stoop that low to post lies to the public for any amount of money".....No, Jane, nobody would pay you to post the nonsense you ramble on about, and you do it for free. Whether it's from just boredom or inability to stay out of "La la land" is unknown to anyone but yourself.