Foreign objects in the food

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Foreign objects in the food

Mohammed Islam was a guest of the Buckingham Correctional Center of the Virginia Department of Corrections.159 At the time, the prison was serving meals provided by Montross Inn.160 On December 20, 1990, Islam received a meal containing maggot-infested meat.161 The next day, word had spread among the inmates and many of them refused to eat any more food provided by Montross Inn.162 The Sheriff, anxious to ensure that the prisoners were properly fed, instructed the prison employees to purchase food at a nearby supermarket and prepare a long-shuttered prison kitchen for use.163

The temporary kitchen was in use for less than two weeks before prison officials found a new outside food supplier.164 However, during those two weeks the prisoners’ meals were prepared without gloves, despite a recent case of infectious disease, by personnel who were not certified to prepare food.165 As it turns out, the kitchen was originally shut down years earlier for its inability to meet health standards.166

Islam fell ill from his maggot-infested meal on December 23.167 Prison officials provided emergency treatment, and he suffered no further medical problems.168

Islam sued the prison officials and Montross Inn over the contaminated meal, and the thirteen days of meals prepared under inadequate sanitation standards.169 In his suit, Islam claimed that the defendants acted with “deliberate indifference”170 to his needs, in accordance with the governing law.171

The court completely disagreed.172 It pointed out that Islam did not even claim any “serious medical and emotional deterioration.”173 It ruled that the facility’s rush to immediately provide emergency medical treatment, a new outside meal supplier, and a stopgap source of food demonstrated “deliberate concern” for the inmates’ needs.174 The difficulties inflicted upon Islam did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.175 The court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss.176

Similarly, return for a moment to the case of Georgia’s DeKalib County Jail.177 The plaintiff, Hamm, claimed not only that the food served by the jail was inadequate,178 but also that it was unsanitary.179

When the lower court found that the jail’s practices regarding food service were “somewhat inadequate,”180 it was referring to more than just the caloric and nutritional content of the food. Specifically, it found that the food was occasionally contaminated by “foreign objects,” and also that the preparation of prisoners’ meals frequently fell short of meeting the Food Preparation Standards of the Georgia Department of Human Resources.181

Even in the face of actual problems, the court rejected the notion that action was necessary.182 It found that the jail’s food service did not lead to serious illnesses.183 The court went on to state that the Constitution only requires that prisoners be fed “reasonably adequate food,”184 and that the Constitution is not offended if that food is occasionally served cold or fouled by foreign objects.185 Again, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed these findings.186

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