Constitutional Law

For One Prisoner, Nutriloaf Diet May Violate Eighth Amendment, Posner Opinion Says

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A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit filed by a prisoner who claimed the nutriloaf he ate in the Milwaukee County Jail was cruel and unusual punishment.

The opinion (PDF) by Judge Richard Posner of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals suggested appointment of counsel for the inmate, Terrance Prude, who vomited and suffered an anal fissure after eating nutriloaf at the jail during a stay to attend court proceedings. Jail officials gave Prude bread and water as a substitute, and his weight dropped from 168 to 154 after two stays at the facility. Other inmates at the jail also vomited after eating nutriloaf.

Withholding nutritious food or substituting sickening food, causing substantial weight loss, vomiting and maybe an anal fissure would violate the Eighth Amendment, Posner said. He cited Wikipedia for the proposition that such a fissure is “no fun at all.”

The defendants, including Sheriff David Clarke Jr., did not disclose the nutriloaf recipe in response to discovery demands. “No evidence was presented concerning the recipe for or ingredients of the nutriloaf that was served at the county jail during the plaintiff’s sojourns there,” Posner wrote. “ ‘Nutriloaf’ isn’t a proprietary food like Hostess Twinkies but, like ‘meatloaf’ or ‘beef stew,’ a term for a composite food the recipe of which can vary from institution to institution, or even from day to day within an institution; nutriloaf could meet requirements for calories and protein one day yet be poisonous the next if, for example, made from leftovers that had spoiled.”

Posner said the defendants ignored discovery demands and the trial judge’s order that they comply. The defendants also failed to file an appellate brief and failed to respond to an order to show cause whey they didn’t do so. “They seem to think that the federal courts have no jurisdiction over a county jail,” Posner said. The appeals court issued an order to show cause why the defendants should not be sanctioned for contumacious conduct and warned they “will find themselves in deep trouble” if they fail to comply.

The case is Prude v. Clarke. Hat tip to How Appealing.

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