A class action lawsuit on behalf of former and current inmates of four Oregon state prisons alleges that they were served various foods marked “not for human consumption.”
Only about 1% of civil cases reach trial in Federal courts today, and this case may be one of them. The lawsuit accuses Oregon’s Department of Corrections of civil rights violations, as well as “deliberate indifference to health and safety.” According to The Oregonian, the lawsuit’s ultimate goal is to hold state prisons more accountable and compel the institutions to provide “adequate nutrition and sanitary food handling” for inmates.
Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla, Columbia River Correctional Institution in Portland, the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, and Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville are all prisons cited in the lawsuit.
Attorney Leonard Berman wrote in the suit that before state health inspections, prison officials instructed inmates to clean the kitchens and remove any “not for human consumption” food, as well as transfer green meat and any other spoiled food into mobile refrigerator trucks. He added that the food would be returned to the kitchens after inspections were completed.
Bridgette Lewis, a former inmate at Coffee Creek, told the Statesman Journal that she witnessed spoiled food being prepared and served in the prison’s kitchens. According to the lawsuit, she was ordered to serve this food against her objections.
The suit alleges that inmates suffered from nausea, stomach pain, and intestinal discomfort as a result of ingesting such food.
Tiffanie Lewis, another former Coffee Creek inmate, said she saw food labeled “not for human consumption” in the kitchens. The lawsuit alleges that while prison inmates were eating spoiled food, prison officials were being served high-quality meals.
This isn’t a matter of unhealthy food. Farmed salmon has more than three times the amount of saturated fat as fresh, wild-caught salmon, but both fish are still highly edible. If what this lawsuit alleges is true, the issue is more than a matter of malnutrition.
The suit has requested a jury trial, and the case was assigned to federal Judge Michael Simon. It is seeking unspecified economic and noneconomic damages, including punitive damages.