Jan. 24, 2022

Prison Food & the Alabama Inmate Food Fund Scandal


Are inmate food conditions criminal? You be the judge.

 

In this episode, we discuss the history of prison food - from lobster to Nutraloaf. We then cover the disturbing story of the Alabamian law that allowed sheriffs to keep inmate food funds…as personal income. Sheriff Todd Entrekin (and many others) took advantage of this system for decades, making inmate wellbeing & rehabilitation a point of contention.

 

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Thanks for listening!

 

References

 

Alabama Department of Archives and History. (2014). Official Symbols and Emblems of Alabama: Official Alabama State Motto. https://archives.alabama.gov/emblems/st_motto.html 

 

Associated Press. (2018, Apr 28). Enjoying leftovers: Sheriffs in Alabama feed inmates, keep extra cash. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-alabama-prison-meals-lawsuit-20180428-story.html 

 

Blinder, A. (2018, Jul 11). Alabama Moves to Limit Sheriffs From Pocketing Jail Food Money. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/11/us/alabama-jail-food-money.html 

 

Cason, M. (2019, May 2). Alabama lawmakers pass bill to protect jail food funds. Advance Local. https://www.al.com/news/2019/05/alabama-lawmakers-pass-bill-to-protect-jail-food-funds.html 

 

ContentEngine LLC. (2021, Feb 6). 'Viking' who stormed capitol is transferred to another jail for vegan diet. CE Noticias Financieras. https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/2487127174?accountid=13631&parentSessionId=e8QPYmx1W%2B8AuZZ1qzAcMqDAc7CBX8yBo9I%2FGXlim%2Fc%3D&parentSessionId=x%2BfZ4r6%2BrjNq43wX%2F9TdUa8FX%2BwoPX9EL6SycIdln7E%3D&pq-origsite=summon 

 

Crane, J. & Charleroi, M. (2017). What we can learn from the (often gruesome) history of food in hospitals and prisons. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/what-we-can-learn-from-the-often-gruesome-history-of-food-in-hospitals-and-prisons-76659 

 

Daniel, A. (2006). Preventing Suicide in Prison: A Collaborative Responsibility of Administrative, Custodial, and Clinical Staff. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 34(2), 165-175. http://jaapl.org/content/34/2/165 

 

Department of Examiners of Public Accounts. (2020). Report on the Office of Sheriff Covington County, Alabama September 1, 2016 through September 30, 2019. https://examiners.alabama.gov/PDFLink.aspx?IDReport=5869 

 

Domonoske, C. (2018, Mar 14). Alabama Sheriff Legally Took $750,000 Meant To Feed Inmates, Bought Beach House. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/14/593204274/alabama-sheriff-legally-took-750-000-meant-to-feed-inmates-bought-beach-house 

 

Gill, L. (2020, Mar 5). …Two Alabama Sheriffs regained power to divert jail food funds. The Appeal. https://theappeal.org/politicalreport/two-alabama-sheriffs-jail-food-funds/ 

 

Godfrey, V. & Price, K. (2019). Victorian convicts were fed a surprisingly sustaining diet. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/victorian-convicts-were-fed-a-surprisingly-sustaining-diet-101052 

Harris, K. (2017). $5.41 per inmate per day: Bad food, small portions fueling prison tensions, federal watchdog finds. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/correctional-investigator-zinger-report-1.4379823

 

Hisaka, M. (2018, Apr 23). Sheriff Allegedly Served Food 'Not Fit For Human Consumption' To Inmates, Kept $750K Of Funds For Personal Use. Inquisitr. https://www.inquisitr.com/4875476/sheriff-served-food-not-fit-for-human-consumption-to-inmates-kept-remaining-750k-of-funds-for-personal-use/ 

 

Jones, M.O. (2017). Eating behind Bars: On Punishment, Resistance, Policy, and Applied Folkloristics. Journal of American Folklore 130(515), 72-108. https://www.muse.jhu.edu/article/648549 

 

Lee, N. & Tang, A. (2019). The surprising reason we boil lobsters alive. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/why-we-boil-lobsters-alive-2018-4 

 

National Institute of Corrections. (2018). Alabama 2018. https://nicic.gov/state-statistics/2018/alabama-2018 

 

Neate, R. (2016). Prison food politics: the economics of an industry feeding 2.2 million. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/30/prison-food-spending-budget-cuts-minnesota 

 

Nellis, A. (2021). The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons. The Sentencing Project. https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/ 

 

Pearson, N. (2017). What prison food is like around the world. https://www.9news.com.au/world/what-prison-food-is-like-around-the-world/387ba2ac-cfb4-43c7-a6fa-94f76bf2eb11 

 

Prison Policy Initiative. (n.d.). Alabama profile. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/profiles/AL.html 

 

Ramsbotham, L.D. & Gesch, B. (2009). Crime and Nourishment: Cause for a rethink? Prison Service Journal, 182. 3–9. https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/pmc/articles/PMC4693953/ 

 

Sheets, C. (2019, Mar 7). Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin loses GOP primary, concedes to opponent. Advance Local. https://www.al.com/news/2018/06/etowah_county_sheriff_todd_ent.html 

 

Weiss, D. (2009, Jan 8). Sheriff Who Pocketed $212K by Providing Skimpy Prisoner Meals is Tossed in Jail. ABA Journal. https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/sheriff_who_pocketed_212k_by_providing_skimpy_prisoner_meals_is_tossed_in_j 

 

Zoukis, C. (2016). Use of Nutraloaf on the Decline in U.S. Prisons. Prison Legal News. https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/mar/31/use-nutraloaf-decline-us-prisons/ 

 


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Transcript

Welcome everyone, I’m Sarah

 

& I’m Becca

 

R: & we’re back after with a really cool episode today - one that talks about an aspect of the prison system that often isn’t discussed - FOOD and food fraud! And we have a lot to cover today. But first, if you follow us on Instagram you may have seen our post about some scandal that occurred over the past week. We are not going to go into detail about that here as it has honestly been quite draining…but we would like to clarify a few things.

 

S: We have a formal correction from our last episode. We had mentioned that there is an upcoming trial. That was a misinterpretation on my part. There is no upcoming trial, only pending court cases. We wanted to add that while we do enjoy telling these stories and trying to add some nuance to the discussion, it’s important to remember that these are real people, mothers, wives, with hard earned careers that can be seriously negatively impacted by things like this. So - to be clear, there is no trial for now! 

 

R: In response to the large influx of DMs we received, we cannot and will not publish information sent to us via DM, because we have no way of verifying these messages. 

 

S: The purpose of this podcast is to provide entertainment and education by telling stories at the intersection of true crime and food, and using our nutrition backgrounds, to add nuance to these often scandalous discussions. In telling these stories, we make our sources clear and transparent, we try to consistently question our own biases, and we do our best to consider differing perspectives as we retell the stories. However, we are human, we all have different life experiences, and our opinions may not always align with yours and that’s completely okay. We want to encourage discussion and deeper thinking about nutrition and food concepts that seem black and white sometimes, but are often very, very complex. 

 

& with that, let’s move on and get into today’s story! 

 

History of Prison Food & Nutraloaf 

I was so excited to research today’s topic because I had this idea of what prison food would be like - aka terrible - and I wasn’t disappointed. 

 

Let’s start from the beginning. The first prison in the US was established in 1773 and in Canada in 1835. ///// Oh to be a fly on the wall in those first prisons, I can’t even imagine the abuses of human rights that went on back in the day. But by looking at the history of prison food throughout the 1800s, we can get a pretty good sense of how awful they were. And we’re going  to look at early prisons in England because that’s where the most well-documented info was and, I love the Brits. 

 

Now, if anyone has ever watched Call the Midwife or Peaky Blinders, two of my favourite shows, you’ll know that working-class Victorian-era England was filled with hardship. Many were stuck living in filth and poverty with zero social support, and so many people had to make ends meet with gambling and theft. Once in prison, a typical daily prison diet in a 19th-century English prisons included a small portions of bread and meat, a pint of gruel and on special occasion, a portion of cheese, potatoes or soup. ///// Gruel is a watery porridge made with ground oats, wheat, or cornmeal, boiled in water or milk, sweetened with sugar or molasses, and seasoned with salt. 

 

It doesn’t sound great, especially when you consider that at this time, prisoners were often performing a lot of manual labour and expending a fair amount of energy. I just think of that opening scene of Les Mis when all the prisoners are heave-hoing on a rope. But a modern-day study of prison records from the time showed that most prisoners maintained their weight while in prison, and 7% of men and 13% of women actually gained weight while in prison. & before you go thinking that maybe things weren’t that bad in prison, I think it actually says more about how bad conditions were outside of prison. 

 

According to prison regulations throughout the 1800s, prisoners were more than welcome to complain about the food, but repeated complaints could result in punishment. Prisoners’ stories often share about how the food was low quality and insufficient, and that they felt frustrated by not being able to make decisions about their food. And that last point, I thought was a unique perspective that I hadn’t really considered before - yes the food sucks, but how frustrating would it be to not be able to make choices about your food for YEARS. & then I wonder, how people’s relationship with food is changed when they get out of prison? Are they overwhelmed with choice? Do they have a sort of “last supper” effect where they go wild and get everything they’ve been missing? 

 

Now, some people especially historically, might think that prisoners don’t deserve to have nice meals or have a lot of choice when it comes to food, but consider our episode on the Minnesota starvation experiment - when people are deprived of food, they are completely unable to function at their full potential, both physically and mentally. They can also become aggressive, irritable, and struggle with emotional regulation. This is why prison food can be considered a “hidden punishment” - in prison, the food is often high in refined carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar and based around foods that most major health guidelines recommend to have in moderation. In a New York Times opinion piece by Patiricia Leigh Brown, the president and founder of an organization called Impact Justice Alex Busansky, was quoted as saying "Food is a fundamental human rights issue, It's not just one bad meal or experience, but years and years and thousands and thousands of meals."

 

Throughout the 1800s, food in prisons was the subject of great debate. On one hand, it’s cruel to starve prisoners and prisons must maintain the wellbeing of prisoners, and on the other hand, it was often thought that serving food that was too delicious would be an incentive for people on the outside to commit more crimes. So the “solution” was to serve nutritionally adequate but bland and boring food. 

 

Now, a surprising item on prison menus in the 1800s was lobster. Lobster is considered more of a fancy food these days, but up until the late 1800s it was seen as a poverty food. ///// Today, when lobsters are prepared they are boiled alive because they have unique protein-digesting enzymes in their stomach that actually break-down their flesh very quickly after they die, and there is a bacteria called Vibrio bacteria that thrives on the decaying flesh of lobsters, so eating an improperly prepared lobster can make people very sick after eating it. 

 

Using food as punishment has been a practice in American prisons since the 19th century, where nutritionally incomplete diets of bread and water diets were commonly used to punish prisoners. In the 1970s, Arkansas prisons would serve something called “grue,” made by combining “meat, potatoes, margarine, syrup, vegetables, eggs, and seasoning into a paste and baking the mixture in a pan” The use of “grue” was discontinued after a federal court found its use to be unconstitutional 

 

As laws developed over the centuries and human rights became more legally protected, prison menus have evolved quite significantly but budget is still a top concern. There were two main Supreme Court cases that involved the constitutional rights of prisoners, Turner v Safley and O’Lone v Estate of Shabazz, both in 1987, that are still used today to determine if an inmates religious dietary rights are being breached. The cases weren’t about food specifically, but they focus on the constitutionality of prison regulations and the rights of prisoners. Today, across the US and Canada, prisoners have the right to access Kosher, Halal, and vegan meals if they require them. 

 

Unsurprisingly, one of the main issues with prison food is budget. In Canada, there are approximately 40,000 prisoners total and the budget for Correctional Services Canada is $2.6B. In the USA, there are 2.12 million people incarcerated, and they spend $81B according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, but some say that that is a gross underestimate. Despite these huge budgets, the food budget is quite tight. In Canada, an estimate from 2017 suggested there is a fixed daily food budget of $5.41 per inmate, and in the US, the budget varies state to state in the US but seems to hover around $3.00/inmate per day. 

 

Because of the poor quality of food and the small portions, food can become part of an underground economy among inmates, where it is bought at the jail canteen, traded and sold for other items. Inmates with some culinary prowess have gotten creative with canteen items and invented some simple prison recipes, including Prison Pad Thai (ramen noodles, peanut butter, hot sauce), Prison Pizza (involves crushing up saltines, doritos, and ramen noodles in a bag and adding water to make a microwavable crust and then topping with whatever is available), and Prison sangria (which is apples, oranges, fruit cups, bread, ketchup, and sugar that gets mixed up and allowed to ferment until you have sangria). 

 

A typical modern prison menu in a US federal prison actually contains a diverse set of menu options, including hummus wraps, Swedish meatballs, bean burritos, and sloppy joes. Now, that actually doesn’t sound too bad to me but there is something served in some US prisons that is equal parts fascinating and horrifying and it deserves special attention: Nutraloaf. 

 

It’s exactly what it sounds like - a loaf of nutrition, also known as prison loaf or lockup loaf. We’ll put the picture on our instagram, it’s a horrifying culinary masterpiece. It’s an extraordinarily bland mash-up of previous day’s leftovers, sometimes put right into a blender and then cooked, that has been described as unpleasant and cardboard-like, but containing a decent mixture of the nutrients needed to sustain health. It is currently served in some US prisons and was formerly served in Canada, and it is controversial and possibly unethical. It’s typically served to inmates who have misbehaved as a punishment, for example following an assault, because it can be served without requiring utensils.

 

The American Correctional Association discourages the use of food as a punishment, but it’s not officially regulated. Denying inmates food as punishment is unconstitutional, but because the loaf is generally nutritionally complete, it is sometimes justified as a "dietary adjustment". 

 

There have been multiple lawsuits about Nutraloaf. In 2008, the Vermont Supreme Court held that a nutraloaf and water diet is considered punishment, however, in 2010, Arizona won a federal judgment in favor of providing prisoners with Nutraloaf. In 2015, New York State discontinued the use of nutraloaf throughout prisons statewide. Although the use of nutraloaf is declining throughout the states, it is still used occasionally. & with that - I’m going to toss it to Becca for the main story! 

 

Thank you Sarah! Perfect segway to the main event. Some of the sources I used for this episode include a Prison Policy Initiative report, a paper published in the Prison Service Journal by David Ramsbotham, an article by Camila Domonoske in NPR, as well as a number of other news articles. As always, they can be found in our shownotes. 

 

So this story takes place in Alabama. The state known for its coastal beaches, college football teams, southern hospitality, and its peanuts, apparently. It is sometimes referred to as the Lizard, Cotton Plantation, or Yellowhammer State (and a Yellowhammer is a type of woodpecker); Alabama is also called Sweet Home Alabama, or Heart of Dixie, which is the slogan found on their license plates. The state motto is audemus jura nostra defendere” - which translated from Latin means "we dare to defend or maintain our rights". Which is somewhat ironic considering today’s story about prisoner rights, or lack thereof…and the government’s historic disregard for BIPOC and female rights (Alabama Department of Archives and History, 2014).

 

Alabama is home to 132 jails and 15 state prison facilities spread across 67 different counties. Do you know the difference between a jail and a prison? Yes, so jails hold people awaiting trial, or those with shorter sentences, and are often under local jurisdiction - so like a city or county; whereas prisons are often longer term, and are under state or federal jurisdiction - so citizens of these institutions have likely broken state or federal laws.

 

As of December 31st, 2018, there were almost 27 thourand (26,841) inmates under the jurisdiction of correctional authorities - so that’s almost 27k people in jail or prison. And more than double that number are under probation or parole (National Institute of Corrections, 2018). 

 

With that being said, incarceration rates in Alabama are super high, and they actually stand out globally, even when compared to overall incarceration rates across the US. So in Alabama, just under 1,000 people out of every 100k are incarcerated; which is much higher when compared to the overall US incarceration rate, which is just over 650 people out of every 100k people. So Alabama brings up this average. The living conditions are also known to be pretty bad. So much so that Alabama was actually the only state where the Prison Policy Initiative could not find evidence of the state’s Department of Correction providing free masks to prisoners during the initial spread of COVID-19…(Prison Policy Initiative, n.d.).

 

And we can’t talk about incarceration without also talking about the racial disparities in these facilities. A 2021 analysis of data looking at state prison populations found that Black Americans made up over half (52%) of the prison population in Alabama, yet only 27% of the general population. So the Black incarceration rate is over 1,400 people per 100,000 people. And the White incarceration rate is only 425 people per 100,000. So there’s an incredibly high disparity. (Nellis, 2021). For-profit or private prisons are a huge contributor to racial disparities and longer sentencing. But that is a HUGE topic for another day.

 

And I don’t want to hate on Alabama too much. I’ve never been there but I am sure it’s lovely. I did check our podcast analytics to see if we have any listeners from the state and we do. So I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. But North American prison systems in general need reform, not just in Alabama. That’s just where today’s story takes place.

 

Anyways, let’s get to it. 

 

Alabama law 

When it comes to prison food in the US, there are differences from state to state. Differences in funding, budgets, programs, and systems. In Alabama, the county sheriff contracts & provides the meals. And there was a very sneaky Depression-era law that shockingly existed until 2018 - and the law states that the sheriff’s department that oversees a jail can keep surplus state funds allocated to the inmate food budget…as personal INCOME!! Isn’t that wild? (Domonoske, 2018). Apparently, at the time the law was put in place, feeding the inmates was the sheriff’s wife’s responsibility. So I guess it would make sense if the wife was able to adequately feed the inmates for less, that the family could keep the rest? I don’t know.

 

But today there is incentive to cut the costs of food so that there is more remaining food budget at the end of each year, but also incentive to incarcerate and hold more inmates in jail if you have a good budgeting system in place. More inmates, more money. On the other hand though, this law states that if there is a deficit in the food budget, the sheriff’s are personally responsible for covering the gap. So they have to pay any deficit from their savings account.

 

Sarah, you mentioned that in the US, the average daily food budget is around $3 per inmate. Well, in Alabama up until 2019, the daily food budget per inmate was $1.75, which was the amount set in the late 1920’s (which would be $24.40 in today’s money - and that number actually seems reasonable) (Associated Press, 2018). But the amount did not increase with inflation and the state gives the Sheriffs $1.75 per inmate per day to do with it what they please. They also get an additional 5 cents to $1.00 per inmate for the preparation and serving of the food. (This last number depends on the number of inmates and labour required). So it’s a very stingy budget (Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, 2020). And this type of system is set up to be taken advantage of…and it has been. Excessively. But even though it is technically legal, some sheriff’s have broken other laws in the process.

 

In 2005, Mobile County Sheriff Jack Tillman plead guilty for perjury and an ethics violation for taking jail food funds to start a personal retirement account. 

 

In January 2018, a massive lawsuit was filed by The Southern Center and Alabama Appleseed for Law & Justice. The Southern Center is an organization that advocates for human rights in the criminal justice system, and Alabama Appleseed is a non-profit advocacy group for justice and equity. They sued 49 Alabama sheriffs to make them release information on their profits from the jail food funds, since taxpayers have a right to know where taxpayer dollars are going. The sheriffs refused on the basis that those numbers are “personal”, but some of them were released anyways.

 

Sheriff Tom Tate of Monroe County collected over $110,000 over a three year period ending in 2016. Sheriff Ana Franklin from Morgan County was held in contempt and fined after taking $160k from her food fund and investing it in a car lot co-owned by a convicted felon. The court ruled that Franklin had violated an agreement she had made with the former Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett. 

 

In 2009, Bartlett was briefly sent to jail after taking $212k from his jail kitchen over three years. Most notably, he cut food costs by purchasing a truck full of corndogs for $1000 and feeding them to his inmates twice a day for weeks (Associated Press, 2018). One inmate claimed that they would receive peanut butter sandwiches with a layer of peanut butter so thin that it looked like it was sprayed on with an aerosol can. This inmate also claimed to have lost 35 lbs in 5 months due to the jail food. Bartlett had also taken food bank donations to feed the inmates over the years (Weiss, 2009). The other sheriff, Franklin, claimed she had NOT been bound by Sheriff Corndog’s agreement to only use jail food funds on food, but the judge disagreed.

 

And then we have Etowah (AT-OW-AH) County Sheriff Todd Entrekin (IN-TRE-KIN). This guy really pushed the limits. Over three years, he made more than $750,000 in profit from the jail food fund. The jail he oversaw held an average of 900 inmates (Associated Press, 2018). I did some fast math and the total food budget based on those numbers would be about $575,000 per year or $1.725 million for three years. And he took almost half of that!!! Keep in mind that his annual salary without the food funding was less than $100k ($93k). 

 

Entrekin’s landscaper came forward with personal checks he had been given from the Sheriff as payment. The name of the account was the "Sheriff Todd Entrekin Food Provision Account." Shortly after, the landscaper was arrested and charged with drug trafficking following an anonymous complaint of cannabis smoke coming from his apartment. He was placed in a jail that Entrekin managed (Domonoske, 2018).

 

Entrekin was quoted saying: “Nobody here is underfed. Nobody here is mistreated. I will say it’s not the Ritz, so you won’t be treated like a king. You will be treated like someone who has broken the law, which means you won’t get your choice about what or when you eat” (Associated Press, 2018).

 

Entrekin released his taxes which contained this financial information to help his defense, since when his predecessor died while still in office, the entire food provision for the year was given to his estate. Entrekin had to borrow $150k to feed the inmates that year; a debt that he claims he was paying off for years. He was actually quoted in the Times while this was happening stating that the law needed to be changed, but that it would likely be more costly for taxpayers if the jail kitchens moved to an open bid process (rather than the sheriff’s office sourcing contractors). Entrekin also released his financial records to demonstrate that he wasn’t malnourishing prisoners. In one communication, he mentioned that the prison used a registered dietitian to ensure that the meals contain adequate nutrition.

But according to my math (again, my math, not fact), that left about $0.99 per inmate per day for food. $0.99!! - I don’t know much you could buy for $0.99 a day. 

 

It turns out that Todd would secure free or almost free food that was either expired, rotten, or labelled “not fit for human consumption”. Now these claims were allegedly made by former inmates and staff members. Apparently undisclosed meat would come in cylinder tubes with the warning label on them, and it would be mixed into meals like stews and pastas. Another horror story from an inmate at the Etowah County jail mentioned that one of their meals came from an auction following a train wreck, and that the inmates were fed the leftover meals from the accident (Hisaka, 2018). Again, I don’t know how accurate these claims are, but these instances were quoted in news articles highlighting the story.

 

Entrekin’s story finally made national headlines when it was revealed that he had purchased a $740,000 4-bedroom beach house in Orange Beach, Alabama with the “food provisions”. He claimed that the “liberal media” was spreading fake news and for a few months he kind of snuck under the radar (Domonoske, 2018). But we’ll get into that in a minute.

 

_____

 

Before we do, I want to talk about the role of food in prisons and rehabilitation. Because inmate food offerings and requests are a huge topic of contention. Do you remember the QAnon shaman viking who was a part of the Capitol Riot last year? Well his name is Jacob Chansley. During his trial he went on somewhat of a hunger strike since the food in jail was not up to snuff. So he didn’t eat for 9 days since the meals weren’t vegan or organic. And the federal judge in the case allowed for him to be transferred to another jail that offered organic food since Chansley claimed it was a part of his beliefs as a Shaman to eat organic food (ContentEngine LLC, 2021). And people were pissed. But it begs the question, at what point is food choice no longer the right of an inmate? I obviously don’t expect you to answer this, but it’s an interesting topic to reflect on. Because I think most people would agree that food and adequate nutrition is our right, especially when it’s in the hands of the government.

 

But we know from your intro that the deprivation of food or adequate food has been used as a form of punishment or discipline in the prison system. While it has been deemed unconstitutional, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t continue to be used. In fact, factors increasing suicide risk while incarcerated include an increased risk of assault or unwated interaction, an overcrowded environment, and changing social structures; as well as a lack of medical care, staff, activity, clothing, and food (Daniel, 2006). So food is noted as an element impacting life and quality of life while incarcerated.

 

And other than some obvious human rights violations, why is the practice of cutting food funds so detrimental? Well it has been documented that rates of offending are often higher within communities experiencing poverty, stress, or the fragmentation of family structures. And lack of adequate nutrition is often linked to these factors. Crime is usually thought of being a matter of free will, but what if this isn’t the whole picture. Studies looking at the cognitive processes associated with things like violence or impulsivity are also looking at essential nutrients, brain function, and behaviour. Because we know that there are nutrients we need to survive, but there are also things we need for proper brain development and neurological function. The brain is super fatty and we need to nourish it. And if this isn't already an argument for reallocating government funds to establish a basic income, I think it should be.  

 

Food-based rehabilitation programs have also seen some success in inmate populations. So programs teaching cooking skills or food-based decision making, and how it can help in areas of food literacy help upon release. All this to say that cutting jail food funding is problematic beyond a human rights violation. It could impact brain function, future food security, and rehabilitation.

 

_____ 

 

OK back to our story. And a little trigger warning here - I will be briefly mentioning instances of drug abuse, domestic violence, and the rape of a minor. So skip over the next two minutes or so of this if you need. 

 

Entrekin almost slipped under the radar after this food fund scandal since the act of what he was doing was technically legal. And he even ran for the sheriff’s office Republican primary election later in 2018, but ultimately conceded to Jonathan Horton, the Rainbow City Police Chief, who pledged that if he won, he would not take any of the surplus inmate food funding. This guy is no hero either though. Apparently he has been accused of domestic violence and has a DUI from an incident where he severely injured the other driver (Sheets, 2019).

 

About a month after the election, police began investigating Entrekin on allegations of statutory rape. Mary Elizabeth Cross came forward alleging that Entrekin had had sex with her multiple times in the early 1990’s, when he was 29 and she was only 15. She claimed that he would host drug-fueled parties with friends and underaged girls. And that he and his friends would take advantage of her and the other girls. She alledges that she had sex with three other men at these parties, all while still underage - and 2 of the men were apparently law enforcement officers. The details around this story (other than the details of the rape) have been corroborated by a friend who was also present at these parties. In Alabama, the statute of limitations would protect the men of the sexual crimes since so much time had passed, but there is no limitation when it comes to a sex crime involving a victim under the age of 16…as long as that crime was committed after Jan 7, 1985 (Sheets, 2019).

 

Mary Cross initially went to Horton with her allegations - he’s the police chief who won the election against Entrekin. But he passed the case off as he didn’t want to be seen as biased or targeting an attack against Entrikin. A few months later the case was closed without any further action. In 2020 Entrekin filed a lawsuit against Horton, the reporter who released the sexual assault allegations, and the media company that published the initial article interviewing Mary Cross - claiming that they had tried to defame him by inaccurately calling him a statutory rapist and drug dealer. But I couldn’t find any updates in this case.

 

In 2018, Alabama’s governor Kay Ivey ordered a memorandum to the law that payments of jail food funds could “no longer be made to the sheriffs personally.” It stated that the money must be paid to county general funds or official accounts, which makes perfect sense….

 

In 2019, The Alabama Senate passed a bill increasing the state allowance to feed inmates from $1.75 to $2.25 a day. So things were looking up for Alabama jails.

 

But apparently, in ealy 2020, two sheriffs regained power over the funds and are able to use any leftover money on law enforcement purposes - so for new equipment or staff. But based on what we know, I wonder if diverting funds into law enforcement is the way to go, or if funding should exclusively be used to improve the food systems in jails or even put towards rehabilitation programs.

 

And that’s the story of the Alabama food fund scandal. This was a frustrating one to cover. 

 

S On that note - during the past year and a half we have been committed to producing bi-weekly episodes. As an independently produced podcast we really do this out of the sheer enjoyment we get in sharing these stories and in engaging with all of you on these topics. It is our dream that one day we produce this podcast fulltime and we are still moving towards that. We would LOVE to be one of those annoying podcasts that is filled with ads (not Noom ads). 

 

B: But for now, as we move forward in our careers we are finding that we need some more flexibility in terms of our podcast release schedule. So we will now be releasing more sporadic episodes based on our capacity. That way you get more quality content, and we don’t start losing our hair.

 

S As always we really appreciate your continued support. And the one major way podcasts can grow is through reviews from you - the listeners. It might seem small but it does make such a difference and helps other people find our podcast. So if you haven't already done so please please please consider leaving one for us today- or even just a rating (preferably 5 stars).

 

B And don’t worry! We have TONS of topics that we still need to cover. We aren’t going anywhere.

 

S Speaking of topics, I have a teaser question for our NEXT episode - What has more vitamin C, an orange or a kiwi? 

 

100g of kiwi has almost DOUBLE the vitamin C in 100g of orange