Even incarcerated citizens have a right to decent healthcare and nutrition. However, some prisons throughout America have failed to adequately prepare meals for the citizens in their custody, creating massive outbreaks of foodborne illness.
Evidence suggests that poor food management of correctional facilities is widespread and dangerous. In fact, The Atlantic called it “a hidden-public health crisis.” Researchers have discovered that inmates contract foodborne illness at 6.4 times the average rate beyond prison walls.
This offense poses a larger threat than a brief stomach ache. Inmates are at the mercy of wardens and officers for every need, every day. When a prison fails to abide by food safety guidelines, sickness is persistent because there are no other available meal options. Over time, spoiled produce and under-cooked meat could become serious hazards to already weakened immune systems.
Foodborne illness can cause several serious complications, such as dehydration, high fever and organ damage. Hospitalization may be necessary to treat severe cases. Some inmates, including the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions, may be more vulnerable to these complications.
The reason for this epidemic is unclear, but cutting costs may be a contributing factor. Prisons may attempt to source their food from the cheapest vendors possible, perhaps in exchange for quality and safety. Facilities could also fail to dedicate enough resources to train kitchen staff on proper food preparation and storage.
Many New Mexico residents who have a loved one in the state’s prison network should keep a close eye on their treatment. Although inmates can expect prisons to limit their liberties while incarcerated, their civil rights should never be violated in this manner. Correctional facilities have a legal responsibility to prevent injury and abuse.