Prison's 'Nutraloaf' May Violate 8th Amendment

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 29, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Nutraloaf is perhaps the most reviled food in the nation. It's a meatloaf-like substance designed to meet a prisoner's nutritional needs, and is often composed of leftover fruits, vegetables, meats and grains. It's bad-tasting and is often used as a form of punishment.

And according to a recent decision from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, it could actually be used for something far worse. The court has reinstated a lawsuit brought by prisoner Terrance Prude. He has accused the Milwaukee County Jail of feeding him nutraloaf in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Now, this is a unique case. Terrance Prude, who is usually housed at a Wisconsin state prison, was moved to the county jail on several occasions for the purpose of attending court proceedings. During his second and third stays, he was fed nutraloaf, explains the court. The food caused him to lose 12 pounds even though he was not overweight. It also caused him to vomit and experience severe gastrointestinal pain.

The county jail gave him antacids and a stool softener and sent him back to the state prison. Once there, he was diagnosed with an anal fissure, which Judge Posner explains is "no fun at all."

It is generally settled law that deliberately withholding nutritious food or substituting tainted food violates the Eighth Amendment. Prisoners are entitled to adequate nutrition. If prison officials knew its nutraloaf was tainted or lacking in nutrition, Terrance Prude would arguably win his suit.

The problem is that the suit never got that far. The trial court granted summary judgment to the county even though its attorneys failed to comply with discovery orders. It refused to provide any information about how its nutraloaf is made. As such, the Seventh Circuit has remanded the suit to the lower court, where a judge will now need to determine whether the feeding of nutraloaf, in this particular instance, violated the Eighth Amendment.

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