Eric Harris, an inmate at the Lake Correctional Institution in Clermont, Florida, has filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court alleging that the prison’s soy-based meals are endangering his health and violating his Constitutional rights (i.e., the ban against “cruel and unusual punishment.”).
Substituting soy products for meat is apparently one of the ways prison systems save money. A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections indicated that without the use of soy, the cost of feeding inmates would double. The standard practice seems to be to combine 50% poultry and 50% soy products, and the dishes made from this mixture are labeled as “Southern BBQ” or “meat loaf.”
Mr. Harris, who is serving a life sentence for sexual battery on a child, did not foot the bill for the lawsuit himself. The filing fee was paid by the Weston A. Price foundation in Washington, an organization which campaigns against the dangers of soy-based foods; they contend that the inmates are being used as “human guinea pigs.” The foundation believes that animal fats are the key to healthy human nutrition, and advocates the consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol from “traditional” foods such as grass-fed beef (no, I’m not making this up). In a similar lawsuit filed in Illinois, also sponsored by the Foundation, a judge has ruled that the matter may proceed to trial.
The real deficiency here is likely one of perception: Mr. Harris (and the Weston A. Price foundation) seems unable to distinguish between eating in the prison mess hall and dining at Morton’s. Precedent isn’t on his side, either. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court has already ruled that prison food doesn’t have to be “tasty or aesthetically pleasing, but adequate to maintain human health.”
It’s enough to make you nostalgic for the good old days of bologna sandwiches.