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Better prison food

February 14, 2013 Letters to the Editor

Recently, I learned that inmates at the Butler County Prison sometimes consider the food there inedible. “Mystery” meat and gravies, and many times scarce portions of anything recognizable, are just a few complaints.

I contacted county health department officials. To my surprise, I was informed that the department does not oversee prison food; it is in fact the county Department of Corrections’ responsibility.

I then contacted the state Office of County Inspection and Services director and was told federal guidelines under Title 37 require that “written local policy must specify that each inmate be provided a daily diet that is nutritionally adequate for the maintenance of good health.”

Also, I learned how prison inspections are handled. The Butler County Prison is notified in advance as to the date and time an inspection will be conducted. If the prison passes that inspection, another inspection is not conducted the following year.

That means two years elapse between inspections.

The OCIS director‘s website says: “Corrective action, if any, is solely the decision of the warden and the county administrator/prison board of that facility.”

While the OCIS has inspection oversight responsibility of county correctional facilities, the oversight is specific to Title 37 issues; the office does not have daily operational and investigative responsibilities. Any concern regarding a county facility should be directed to the warden of the facility.

I contacted prison officials and met with the warden and two deputy wardens. I was informed that the food served in our local prison is based on caloric count (3,000 per day), not nutritional value.

I was assured that the food served to inmates meets federal guidelines as outlined in Title 37, which states: “Regular and alternative menus shall be approved and signed by a registered dietician or licensed physician, or both, and the prison administrator on an as-needed basis, but no less than on an annual basis.” I was told that the dietician who works at Sunnyview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center signs off on the prison food to deem it nutritionally adequate.

I called to verify this with the said dietician and was informed that the prison menus have not been reviewed for nutritional value for the last five years.

The current prison board members are Judge William Shaffer, District Attorney Richard Goldinger, Sheriff Mike Slupe and the three county commissioners. I would encourage all concerned family members of prisoners to attend the next prison board meeting at 8:45 a.m. March 26 to express their concerns.