Thursday, November 12, 2009

Soy Prison Case

Rod Blagojevich, now-shamed former governor of Illinois, in one of his first official acts in 2003, directed the Illinois Department of Corrections to replace most of the meat protein in its inmates' diets with soy protein (thus landing a big purchase order in the hands of one of his long-time friends). Inmates in Illinois now get upwards of 100 grams per day; even soy advocates recommend getting no more than about 20 grams of soy protein per day, because of the known deleterious health effects of large amounts of soy. No exceptions are made for inmates with documented soy allergies.

Since 2003, inmates have experienced a variety of new health problems, including constipation, diarrhea, pains after eating, vomiting, thyroid problems, weight gain, breast development (among men), persistent infertility, and depression. Some of the prisoners who have complained about the new diet were retaliated against by the prison officials.
In 2008, the Weston A. Price Foundation took up the cause of soy in prison diets. They retained lawyer Gary Cox to help a number of inmates file seeking a permanent injunction against soy in their meals, on 8th ammendment (cruel and unusual punishment) and 14th ammendment (deprivation of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law) grounds.

Today WAPF held a press luncheon in Chicago to publicize the case.

From left to right: Sally Fallon (President, WAPF), Jeffrey Smith (author, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods), Gary Cox (the lawyer representing the inmates), and Thomas Salonis (poet and former inmate in the Illinois prison system).

Reasons we should care:
  • By some measures, up to 1/3 of the Illinois prison population is estimated to be innocent, and up to another 1/3 oversentenced.
  • Even genuine wrong-doers do not deserve the punishment of being forced to eat inadequate food. 
  • This is not limited to Illinois; similar diets are popping up in prisons in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, and California.
And, alarmingly:
All of the panelists spoke eloquently and movingly about the issue. The Q&A section was impressive as well, particularly for the guest appearance of Mark Clements, a man who spent 28 years in Illinois prison for a crime that he didn't commit.

more videos on youtube:
pictures on twitter:
pictures on flickr:

I haven't even done justice to the geneitically modified soy angle. More for another time.

This is the nexus of food, sustainability, and social justice.

Stay tuned for more from the Weston A. Price Foundation Wise Traditions conference.


Here are the videos taken at the press conference. Moving testimony was given by a homeless former inmate. You will want to watch these.

Here are some high res photos taken at the press conference by Ann Marie Michaels, of Cheeseslave.

Feel free to use these pictures if you want to blog or write a press article about the lawsuit. She has granted permission for you to do so!


Anonymous said...

this is ridiculous that our Government and its "so called Prison Unions" will find anything they can to poison our country. For what? Population control of the average citizen? Or just to scavenge any and all money with disregard to human decency? Look around people, isn't it obvious?

Alex Lewin said...

Yes, I think greed is number one. Greed is simple, self-contained, and easy to understand.

Control, revenge, and plain old cruelty probably come next.