food deficiencies, Prison Litigation Reform Act, public school regulation, constitutional authority, school lunch program, federal disenfranchisement, federalism

Document Type



While federal and state government regulations have become commonplace in almost every conceivable facet of the modem American lifestyle, the prison food system has inconspicuously remained underregulated despite the progress made by the prisoners' rights movement in other areas. Legislatures in most states generally leave prison food regulation to the sole discretion of prison administrators, resulting in a "laissez-faire approach" in the prison food system; an anachronism in contemporary America. Some states' prison systems do in fact self regulate to an adequate degree despite this under-regulation, while others participate in voluntary, nongovernmental prison accreditation programs. However, many states and localities are not so magnanimous. Serious issues concerning the nature and quality of food offered to prison inmates arise when these governments do not participate in such programs or simply choose to ignore the programs' provisions at their convenience, due to their voluntary nature. As an example of the potential for abuse that can occur when prison food systems are under-regulated, the state of Illinois initiated a large scale plan to substitute meat with soy-based products for budgetary reasons in 2003, resulting in a multitude of health related complaints from its inmates, including digestive disorders, skin problems, and even breast development in males. As such, while there may not necessarily be a nationwide prison pandemic that poses a threat to every inmate in the U.S., it is clear that the issues involved are serious and impact a significant portion of the inmate population.