Wednesday, February 24, 2010

#61 What is prison food like?

What is prison food like?

I know I answered that question several times in the past several years, but it is always interesting when I read online about what some people think prison food is supposed to taste like. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Before I forget, I urge you to email me if you want me to address a question or make a nice comment. I am trying very hard to endear myself to you so I can show you that I mean what I say about prison writing. I can help, if not in the smallest sense, but I can help.

For example, I noticed that on my blogs, one search somebody is looking for is how to get a loved one into college who has done prison time, and is 21 years old. As a person who has a college degree, and also did prison time, I might be able to reflect on that and talk about options that the person might have. If you have been asking that question in your head, or googling that online, maybe I can talk about that if you want me to.

Lots of people google questions just looking for random answers, but if you email me, maybe I can answer it more directly and help give you a little peace of mind. At this moment I don’t get many emails since my blogs are kinda new, but I did get a couple last week, one from a mom in Texas and another from a man in DC….odd because 99% of my readers and those on prison support sites are women. That’s not a disrespect to that man, because there are fathers, husbands and boyfriends out there with loved ones in prison, but it is rare that they interact.

Now, what’s this I hear about people saying prison food is the worst food in the world? High school students like to compare their school food to prison, people make jokes about prison food and sometimes when you see movies you get that stereotypical image of some big hairy guy dishing out slop on a metal bowl with a cup of water to a man in stripes.

Is that what you think prison food is?

Now I am not here to attempt to glorify prison, but I am not going to sit here and lie about it either. I know more about prison food than most folks…well, certainly more than anybody who never BEEN to prison (not that I require you to go to understand). And in that statement is an argument I make about what I share, compared to many prison support sites.

I have read a lot of posts where a mom, girlfriend or wife talks about how terrible the food is, based on what their loved one said. Well, naturally we can assume that if their loved one said it is terrible, then that is the truth right. But there is a difference between truth and fact. We as humans often relate “truth” to feelings, so how we feel at the moment has a strong impact on what we conceive as truth.

Consider then, if an inmate is in prison, frustrated, depressed, stressed and surrounded by negativity, his outlook on life would likely emulate that, right? People are more likely to complain about everything when they are in a negative state of mind. Its no different from high school kids that think their food is like prison. The ones saying that are the ones frustrated with their high school life. I guarantee you the ones having fun in high school, making good grades and are overall positive aren’t saying that. Same in prison, well, minus the grade, and having a good time.

My point here is that your frame of mind can determine what you think about things, and your emotions have an impact on what you think to be true. So, getting back to the issue about prison food, was it terrible? I mean, if these people on these prison support sites say it, it MUST be true, right?


No disrespect to any mom, wife or girlfriend, but if you are telling people that prison food is terrible because your loved one said it, you COULD be mistaken. I mean, did YOU eat it? I did. I know how prison food tastes…heck, I used to work in those prison kitchens!

One of the biggest myths in prison is the idea that prisons put salt petre (or also known as salt peter) in the food. People seem to think that prisons slip that stuff in the prison food so that inmates won’t be so sexually active.

Folks…that…is garbage.

Let me say again…that is garbage.

“But you never know…”

One more time for you….THAT IS GARBAGE!

I can go into much more detail about this, in fact I wrote an article on this very issue before, where I dispelled the myth…but I am very sure that even after reading it, a lot of you are not willing to let that go.

It is funny because some people like to get on prison support sites and make themselves an expert simply based on what their loved one thought…NOT what was true, simply what he thought. And if an inmate in prison thinks they are putting something in the food, then it must be true, right?

Folks, as a guy that worked in three different prison kitchens, I knew MANY guys that suspected that we, or officers, were sneaking stuff in the prison food. They were sadly misinformed, as rumors often run wild in prisons anyway, but if those same people told their girlfriends, wives or mothers the same thing, those people would go running to the prison support site like TMZ or some rumor-generating entity, just foaming at the mouth to share some bits of gossip.

I could write pages on this issue alone, but I’ll wait for some of you to get in touch with me before I get into longer blogs on this. But my experience in prison food, outside of eating it for years, was that I used to work in the prison kitchen at Tyrrell Prison Work Farm. I worked there as a pot washer and got to know all the guys and officers that worked in that kitchen. I can still see the layout of that kitchen if I close my eyes.

When I was kicked out of Tyrrell (a story upon itself), I was sent to Sanford Correctional where I was made into a dining hall attendant, that means I was responsible for cleaning up the cafeteria, and helping wash utensils. In short, a janitor.

After I was kicked out of Sanford (a story upon itself), I was sent to Robeson Correctional, where I was, for some reason, appointed a cook. I was now responsible for actually preparing meals for the inmate population. Now mind you, I was not the only cook, the kitchen inmate workers had 2 other cooks, prison kitchen officers and other guys. I learned quite a bit about cooking for inmates, and I was also a line server too.

In many prisons, the line server and cook are often some of the more respected jobs in the kitchen, because a line server can put the “heavy hand” on the food, or a “light one”. That means if a line server wanted to, he could give an inmate a little more on that plate, or less (slightly) if he so desired. I mean, it’s a judgment call on how much a spoon can REALLY hold, right?

But anyway, In those three prisons, I learned a lot about how prisons work in the kitchen, and I say with great confidence that the chances of the prison putting “stuff” in the food is like .00001%. That means I am more than 99% confident in what I say.

The only reason I am not saying 100% is because I cannot fairly speak for every prison in the US. Heck, I can’t even speak for every prison in North Carolina, but my experience means a heck of a lot more than some person on a prison support site reflecting frustrating thoughts from her loved one in prison.

I encourage you to get in touch with me about prison food, or any other subject, I am trying to get more readers and eventually more support so I can get back to doing what I was doing so well a couple of years ago…prison writing, sharing and earning an income.

Don’t forget, I have my creating prison short story, “Defending Job” coming soon on the blogspot prison blog, ask me about it if interested.

Until then….

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