In fact, subsection GG deals with water restriction, “Whenever a water restriction is imposed, water in the prisoner's cell shall be turned on at least twice per shift and during meals; however, drinking water shall remain on at all times during a heat alert unless otherwise approved” (PD 04.05.120). The reason a prisoner is placed on water restriction is due to “water-related circumstances (e.g., flooding cell).” That water is being held back from prisoners even during heat alerts is difficult to accept. Water cannot be thought of as anything but a basic human right, as is food.
Imagine having to force down bites of the only thing keeping you alive? It is little comfort that the 6th Cir. stated “these loaves meet nutritional and caloric requirements for humans” (Griffis). What is significant is that human beings need more than a meeting of requirements. People require food that tastes good and is enjoyable. What prison loaf offers is almost the antithesis of this basic premise. Prison loaf is a representation of eating ones' own waste.
A discussion of nutrition itself is beyond the scope of this paper but can be thought of as a process of introducing the raw materials a human being needs to operate. Feeding tubes and prison loaf are two ways nutrition is introduced into the human body in prison. The feeding tube method is quite similar to the process used in making foie gras. A non-cooperative prisoner is strapped into a sitting position. A tube is inserted down the esophagus into the stomach and food is delivered. The Declaration of Tokyo has prohibited the usage of feeding tubes except in cases of psychological disorders requiring the forced administration of nutrition (World).
Prison loaf serves the same purpose as the feeding tube except it is a self-torture. The consumption of nutrition by mouth is done over taste buds and under olfactory senses. Prison loaf violates these senses and makes the eating of it a negative experience. Hunger makes the prisoner consume whatever food is presented. That prison loaf resembles human waste might be a coincidence but it is suggestive to those who have eaten it.
Prison loaf becomes the culinary identity of prisoners subjected to it. There are recipes and they are followed in the process of cooking to produce prison loaf. Claude Lévi-Strauss identifies cooking, and thus eating, with a unifying principle found among all human beings. “Cooking which, it has never been sufficiently emphasized, is with language a truly universal form of human activity” (Lévi). In this case, the human activity is the subjugation of human beings through an oppressive food source called prison loaf. The language is punishment, compliance, and order.
Lévi-Strauss further wrote, “Thus we can hope to discover for each specific case how the cooking of a society is a language in which it unconsciously translates its structure-or else resigns itself, still unconsciously, to revealing its contradictions” (Lévi). The language, and thus the structure of the society itself, which is indicated in prison loaf is a very oppressive one-food itself becomes the punishment, the language becomes punishment.
In solitary confinement the only significant daily interaction with other human beings is when food is delivered. When prison loaf is delivered the message received is that even the small joy of eating has been eliminated. Alone in the cell the prisoner eats the cold prison loaf to stay alive. Lévi-Strauss argues that cooking is a universal language, a way that people are connected and information about societies is transferred unconsciously. What information is being gathered by the presentation of prison loaf three times a day?
The message received can only be one of dehumanization. The prisoner is fed like all animals with brown, tasteless, bad smelling meal whether it is in the shape of a loaf, bite, or nugget the idea is the same. And feeding in solitary confinement is quite similar to the way animals are fed in their pens, one portion per pen.
Griffis v. Gundy. 47 U.S. 327. United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. 2002. Web. 17 Nov. 2012.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. The Origin of Table Manners. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978. Print.
World Medical Assembly. WMA Declaration of Tokyo - Guidelines for Physicians Concerning Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Relation to Detention and Imprisonment. Tokyo: WMA, 1975. Print.
The following recipe for “Special Management Meal” comes from NPR and yields three one pound loaves.
Mix all ingredients in a 12-quart mixing bowl. Make sure all wet items are drained. Mix until stiff, just moist enough to spread. Form three loaves in glazed bread pans. Place loaf pans in the oven on a sheet pan filled with water, to keep the bottom of the loaves from burning. Bake at 325 degrees in a convection oven for approximately 45 minutes. The loaf will start to pull away from the sides of the bread pan when done (Simon).
This meal is known as prison loaf by many prisoners, and has various other names such as food loaf and nutraloaf, and is defined by the State of Florida Rule: 33-602.223: “The special management meal is a specially prepared meal designed to be utilized as a management tool in order to maintain a clean, safe and healthful environment in confinement areas” (Florida). The Rule further states that this punishment is used for those prisoners that are “creating a security problem.” Examples of such breaches of security include:
(a) The throwing or misuse of food, beverage, food utensils, food tray, or human waste products;
(b) Spitting at staff;
(c) The destruction of food trays or utensils;
(d) Any other acts that would place staff in jeopardy if a serving tray or utensils were provided (Florida).
Due to the weaponizing of food, dining arifacts, and human waste, certain prisoners are placed in solitary confinement and fed the prison loaf three times a day as a stated punishment.
On his radio show Weekend Edition, Scott Simon sampled the recipe given and stated that prison loaf was “Blander than bland” and “smells a little bit like the food they serve in the elephant cage at the National Zoo.” These criticisms of the food are echoed in the interview by Warden Thomas Corcoran of Baltimore's Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center. Corcoran states that prison loaf is just a part of the larger plan to “discourage negative inmate behavior.” And according to Corcoran, “In the two years since the prison's behavior-modification [including prisoner loaf] was instituted, the incidence of inmate assaults on prison staff has been cut in half. 'The proof is in the loaf'” (Weekend).
Prison loaf has appeared in several suits filed by prisoners against correctional institutes in the United States. The range of greveances is varied but in each case the administration of prison loaf was found to be constitutional. Michael Griffis, filed one greivence a prisoner at the Oaks Correctional Facility, Michigan, who sued the Warden David Gundy, et al. (United).
In his complaint, Griffis argued that his rights were violated when he was put on prison loaf. Specifically that he was not afforded due process before being sentenced to prison loaf. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (6th Cir.) found that his liberty was not violated. The 6th Cir. found, “A restraint imposed in prison does not give rise to a protected liberty interest unless the restriction constitutes an 'atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life'” (Griffis). The “ordinary incidents of prison life” thus includes food that is bland and not olfactory appealing.
Griffis further argues that his Eighth Amendment right was violated because he was put on prison loaf without the consent of healthcare personnel. The 6th Cir. states in its finding that, “A diet of food loaf does not violate the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, because it has been shown that these loaves meet nutritional and caloric requirements for humans” (Griffis).
Any health problems claimed by Griffis were found by the 6th Cir. to not represent a legitimate Eighth Amendment claim, “Griffis has only speculated that the temporary food loaf diet caused his hemorrhoids to bleed more than ten days after the food loaf restriction had elapsed” (Griffis).
In full disclosure, Griffis filed pro se, as legal council was a practical impossibility. The crime for which he was being disciplined for was “sexual misconduct for masturbating with butter” (Griffis). Being put on prison loaf seems an incredible measure to combat sexual misconduct, which is defined by the State of Michigan as:
Consensual touching of the sexual or other parts of the body of another person for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of either party, except that an embrace of a visitor at the beginning and end of a visit is not sexual conduct; intentional exposure of the sexual organs to another person in a location or manner where such exposure has no legitimate purpose; imitating the appearance of the opposite sex; words or actions of a sexual nature directed at another person in order to harass or degrade that person (PD 03.03.105).
A close examination of the above definition does not include “masterbating with butter.” And there is no reference to an institutional ban on using food products to masterbate with in the Policy Directive (PD 03.03.105) from the Michigan Department of Corrections on Prisoner Discipline PD 03.03.105. That makes the decision to put Griffis on prison loaf one covered under the PD 04.05.120 that states under subsection MM misuse of food and hording the pat of butter are both grounds to be sentenced to prison loaf.
By masturbating with butter, Griffis was punished with prison loaf three times a day. Could he not simply mash up the prison loaf and use that food matter to masturbate with? The logic that denying food will somehow curb sexual misconduct is one that needs to be looked at a little closer. Who is the authority to make such decisions that reflect upon a person's morality? Because the conduct is termed sexual misconduct, it can only be based on a moral judgment, as masturbation is not mentioned in the PD. And the one responsible for making these kinds of decisions in a prison is the warden.
According to PD 04.05.120, “A prisoner shall not be fed food loaf without approval of the Warden or designee; a Food Loaf Request form (CAJ-689) shall be complete to document the prisoner's behavior and obtain food loaf approval.” So, the Warden or designee decided that masturbating with butter was a ground to impose prison loaf. Why not just take away the butter? Was Griffis further banned from the shower as water can also be used as a lubricant? The adage the punishment fits the crime is lacking in this case.
Subsection NN goes on to detail that food loaf can only be served for up to seven days. That it cannot be served for more than seven days begs the question, why? Subsection PP states, “The Food Services Section Manager also shall develop specialized recipes when necessary to meet the religious or medical needs of the prisoner. Food loaves shall meet the nutritional and caloric requirements set forth in PD 04.07.100 'Offender Meals'” (PD 04.05.120). So why only seven days?
The idea that we first eat with our eyes and sense of smell leads to one possible reason prison loaf is a limited punishment. Simon had a hard time eating one bite. The texture and smell did not please his senses. Obviously, nothing is added to improve any part of prison loaf that would aid in its eating. Instead, it is punishment. The basic need for food is made a punishment. Survival at its most fundamental level is challenged by the State.