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NutriLoaf
T.J. Hooker Photo-Illustration: A nutri-loaf sits on a plate in The Post-Star studio on Thursday, February 24, 2011. The wheat-bread based concoction meets state mandated nutritional requirements and is fed to inmates at the Warren County Jail who have had their other food privileges revoked. T.J. Hooker Photo-Illustration: A nutri-loaf sits on a plate in The Post-Star studio on Thursday, February 24, 2011. The wheat-bread based concoction meets state mandated nutritional requirements and is fed to inmates at the Warren County Jail who have had their other food privileges revoked.

- 6 slices whole wheat bread, finely chopped

- 4 ounces imitation cheddar cheese, finely grated

- 4 ounces raw carrots, finely grated

- 12 ounces spinach, canned, drained

- 2 cups dried Great Northern Beans, soaked, cooked and drained

- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

- 6 ounces potato flakes, dehydrated

- 6 ounces tomato paste

- 8 ounces powdered skim milk

- 4 ounces raisins

Bake in a loaf pan at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, and serve.

It sounds like a recipe for turkey stuffing, or maybe vegetarian meatloaf.

Not bad, right? It contains most of the major food groups. It's nutritionally sound. And it meets the requirements of even many special diet plans.

But according to some, this is more than just a fancy dish. This meal has the power to change men's behavior, practically turning them from violent predators to submissive church mice.

It's called "prison loaf," or simply "the loaf," and it's a popular version of what Warren County Sheriff Bud York is serving to certain inmates at the county jail to help discourage violence and other unacceptable behavior.

According to some who have experienced prison loaf, it smells "a little bit like the food they serve in the elephant cage at the National Zoo" and tastes "like something that's been eaten before."

And that's exactly why sheriffs and prison wardens around the country have taken to serving the 1-pound culinary cornucopia as part of their efforts to control unruly inmates.

Statistics show that when inmates are served a steady diet of prison loaf, it saps any desire to get into trouble.

Instituted at Baltimore's Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, the meal plan has helped reduce inmate violence against guards by half. York said he's already begun seeing a reduction in incidents against correction officers. And some guards around the country have said "the loaf" is a more effective deterrent than solitary confinement. When regular prison food looks like something Rachael Ray would whip up, you know this stuff has to be disgusting.

It's so bad that some inmates have sued prisons for serving it to them, calling the meal "cruel." But guards say that's not as cruel as being covered with urine and fecal matter thrown at them by inmates. Or of being spit at or assaulted or otherwise abused.

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And that's exactly why York is right to institute the measure. It's a matter of controlling inmates and protecting guards.

Aside from the loaf, the sheriff has also instituted other quality-of-life punitive measures, such as taking away coffee and limiting

the inmates' TV viewing to five channels: three 24-hour news stations, The Weather Channel and the Food Network (nice touch). If he really wanted to be cruel, he could have included the 24-hour "Sex and the City" channel. So you can't say the sheriff doesn't have a heart.

The action isn't unusual. Punishing bad behavior and rewarding good behavior is an accepted way of controlling individuals. And nowhere is controlling individual behavior more important than in a jail or prison. For some inmates, food is the only deterrent the prison system has left to control them. So if prisoners can be compelled to behave by threatening to serve them elephant slop, then what's the harm?

A sheriff in Maricopa County, Ariz., went beyond anything Sheriff York is imposing to control inmates, including serving them terrible food, pumping in educational programs and Sinatra music over prison radio, assigning inmates pink underwear, taking away access to Playboy magazine, and even having prisoners live in tents outside in Arizona's scalding hot desert. Despite complaints from inmates and civil rights advocates, the courts have upheld virtually all of the sheriff's initiatives.

Inmates aren't in jail because they chose to be there. They are there because they committed a crime against society.

If more potential criminals viewed jail as an unpleasant experience, they might try a little harder to avoid it.

Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney and citizen representative Mike Wild.

 

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