Court: Nevada should say what’s in prison food; Furlong says Carson City OK
LAS VEGAS — A convicted pedophile’s complaint about Nevada prison food has the state Supreme Court ordering an accounting of what’s in unnamed sack lunches and “chef’s choice” dinners given to inmates, and whether the meals are healthful.
A strongly worded ruling by a three-judge panel declared it isn’t enough for the top state health officer, Dr. Tracey Green, to simply state that prisoners aren’t malnourished.
“Green’s report does not detail what foods are being served to inmates … much less provide any explanation of how these unidentified foods provide inmates with a nutritionally adequate diet,” the court said after reviewing Green’s 2011 report to the Board of Prison Commissioners.
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said his department essentially already complies with the ruling.
Furlong said the jail kitchen already monitors the nutritional content of meals served to prisoners.
He said the Supreme court ruling hasn’t, at this point, reached down to his jail.
“But if they were to ask for it, we would comply,” he said.
Furlong said the jail kitchen already handles a variety of nutritional needs for prisoners with allergies or conditions that restrict their diets such as diabetes.
In short, he said, his staff already has the necessary nutritional information to provide if asked.
Green, head of the Nevada Division of Behavioral and Public Health, said in a statement Thursday that since 2011, her annual inspections of prison sanitation, healthfulness, cleanliness, safety, diet and food preparation were up-do-date.
She said reports in the past “would only reflect deficient practices rather than demonstrate areas of compliance,” and said her state Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance “plans to better document how the review takes place.”
“The chief medical officer will continue to comply with law and any additional direction from the district court,” the statement said.
State prisons are required to provide inmates with a “healthful diet.”
Prisons also must account for religious and medical diets, and the age, sex and activity level of inmates.
But justices Michael Cherry, Michael Douglas and James Hardesty said in their Dec. 31 order that Green “fell well short” in the 2011 report of meeting her obligation.
“There is nothing in the report to even indicate that Green or her staff actually examined the diets,” the opinion said.
The justices added the report said a dietitian who reviewed menus for nutritional adequacy had never been to Lovelock Correctional Center, where plaintiff Robert Leslie Stockmeier is housed.
Green’s report “included no analysis of the diets of general population inmates, addressed diets at only one of Nevada’s correctional facilities, and generally lacked any indication as to how the required examination was conducted,” the justices said.
Stockmeier, 46, is serving two consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty in 1990 to sexually assaulting a 9-year-old boy.
He has been denied parole several times, and has filed at least 25 appeals and complaints with the state Supreme Court. He serves as his own lawyer.
The three-justice panel sent Stockmeier’s civil complaint back to Carson City District Court, where it had been dismissed, with instructions that the judge require Green to comply with state law and report twice a year on the prison diet’s nutritional adequacy.
A February 2010 menu that Stockmeier provided the court described every lunch offering as “sacks” and certain dinners as “chef’s choice,” with no information about nutritional value, the justices said.
As of Dec. 31, Nevada had nearly 12,800 inmates at seven prisons and 10 conservation camps, plus a restitution center and a transitional housing center.
The Department of Corrections budget for 2013-15 was $487 million, down $9 million from the previous two-year budget period.
Nevada prisons budgeted $11.7 million for food in fiscal 2014 and $11.8 million in fiscal 2015, according to the state Legislative Counsel Bureau. Not counting staff time, and if the prison population has been consistent, the state spends an average of less than $925 on food per inmate per year.
A “thrifty” adult aged 19 to 50 in the United States spent about $187 on food in November, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. That averages a little less than $2,250 a year or 2½ times the Nevada prison food budget.
NFL football Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson also is housed at Lovelock, in northern Nevada.
Now 67, Simpson is serving nine to 33 years on armed robbery and kidnapping charges in a 2007 confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas hotel. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2017.