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Roaches, Mold, Inedible Food: Virginia Prison Food is a Nightmare

Rhododendrites via Wikimedia Commons

Shocking new claims about the condition of prison food — including roaches, mold, and spoiled food that has allegedly caused food poisoning — are coming out from an investigative report by Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg over at The Appeal.

Some of these details are indeed disturbing:

In addition to the lack of access to healthy food in prison, many people are served meals that are altogether inedible. The Appeal has been in touch with several women at Virginia’s Fluvanna Correctional Center who said they’re provided food that is moldy, rotten, or spoiled. They often find roaches on the food trays. The portions are “toddler size,” one woman reported.

Although Virginia prisons provide meals for more than 22,000 people, there is little independent oversight of their kitchens or food preparation practices.

Prison officials at the Fluvanna Women’s Correctional Facility have stated that they would eat their own meals.  Yet the picture from those inside where the public cannot get a clear idea of what is going on shows a far different reality:

VADOC’s denials conflict with several reports from women at the facility who say they continue to receive inedible food.

“I got rotten black potatoes on my tray today,” Stephanie Angelo wrote to The Appeal last week via the prison’s online messaging service. “They have been rotten at least the past 2-3 days.”

Smuggling an extra banana or orange into the prison cells is an infraction that is punished by corrections officials.

Many people end up spending what little money they have at the commissary, where options are typically just a step up from a vending machine.

Regina Watkins, who’s incarcerated at Fluvanna, told The Appeal she earns 27 cents an hour housekeeping, which comes to about $30 a month. She spends much of that money buying food at the commissary. Forty packets of ramen usually get her through the month, Watkins said. At 34 cents each, that’s almost half of her monthly earnings.

Perhaps an independent panel headed appointed by Governor Youngkin can delve into the rot here.  Five-star food isn’t the expectation, but something that won’t give prison inmates food poisoning shouldn’t be that high of a bar to climb.

“I understand that I am incarcerated,” Dillon said. “I don’t expect five-star food, but I also would expect food that’s at least edible.”

Fydor Dostoyevsky used to remark that civilization in a society can be judged by the conditions of its prisons.  The wider question, of course, is precisely who was in charge over the last eight years that allowed these conditions to degrade?  That points a rather direct finger to the last eight years under the McAuliffe-Northam administration.

Virginians deserve better answers.

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