When inmates in Missouri’s prisons pose a security threat, they sometimes are served a loaf-like concoction that one state lawmaker says she wouldn’t feed to a dog. Although state prison officials say they have no plans to stop serving “nutraloaf” to unruly inmates, Rep. Kimberly-Ann Collins has introduced legislation banning the substance from the Department of Corrections’ culinary roster, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think the Department of Corrections should come up with something else. It’s disgusting,” Collins said. The use of so-called “prison loaf” to deal with behavioral problems has been an issue nationally, with some states banning it as cruel and unusual punishment. Other states, like Missouri, are still cooking it up on occasion. Typically, the loaf is comprised of a variety of ingredients mixed together, baked in a loaf and served without utensils. The recipes vary by state. Illinois’ version calls for a small amount of ground beef mixed with beans, tomato paste, carrots, and binding agents such as potato flakes, dry grits or rolled oats. Collins said Missouri’s version can include fruit juice and other ingredients, resulting in a mushy gruel-like substance. “I think it’s inhumane to serve people something like that,” Collins said. “That’s like feeding somebody uncooked meatloaf.” Her proposal would prohibit the use of the loaf as a disciplinary tool.
Karen Pojmann, Missouri corrections communications director, said the loaf is not meant as punishment. Rather, it is used in response to unsafe behavior by an inmate. “We don’t serve meal loaves in response to disciplinary issues,” Pojmann said. “They would be served only in cases of extreme safety concerns, such as a situation in which an offender is using utensils, food trays, etc., as weapons for self-harm or violence against others.” Pojmann was not aware how often the meals are served in the state’s 20 prisons. “I don’t think we have a system in place for tracking meal loaf servings,” she said. The American Correctional Association says alternative meals like meal loaf should be based only on health or safety considerations, meet basic nutritional requirements and be used for no more than seven days in a row. Some states, like New York and Pennsylvania, have ended the practice amid legal challenges from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. Collins has made prison-related issues a significant part of her legislative career. She has been making unannounced visits to prisons across the state to check on conditions and hear inmates’ stories. Collins has said conditions are “deplorable” and urged creation of a 10-member oversight committee. The group would be charged with investigating complaints and collecting data on prisoner deaths, suicides and assaults, among other things. “I just feel like oversight is needed,” Collins said. “I catch a lot of things that shouldn’t be happening.”