Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 6, 2011

Dear Sis~

I just learned that another Death Row prisoner, Lloyd Duest, died of cancer recently.  He's been on the row since 1983, almost 28 years, so I guess you could say he had a pretty good run (he was 59 years old).  I've lost count of all the guys on the row who have died of cancer over the last decade; it's like an epidemic.  Statistically speaking, the number are way out of whack; it's way beyond just an anomaly - the deviation from the norm is way off the chart.  My suspicion is that there's something in the water or the food is morphing into a near certainty.  Speaking of food, I may have told you that about 6 months ago the DOC (Dept of Corrections) stopped serving any kind of real meat to prisoners.  A DOC official went on TV and claimed they would save several million dollars a year by serving this new (and terrible tasting and looking) fake "meat" made from soy and vegetable matter.  Well, I did some investigating and learned the source of this stuff.  It's made by Archer Daneils Midland Company (ADM), a huge food/agricultural conglomerate (it dominates the American market) and it is called Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), also known as Textured Soy Protein (TSP), "soy emat" or "soya meat".  It is made from soy beans, cotton seeds, wheat and oats, and is extruded into various shapes (chunks, nuggets, grains, flakes and strips).  Here's ADM's description: "The defatted, thermoplastic proteins are heated to 150-200 degrees Centigrade, which denatures them into a fibrous, insoluble, porous network that can soak up as much as three times its weight in liquids.  As the pressurized molten protein mixture exits the extruder, the sudden drop in pressure causes rapid expansion into a puffy solid that is then dried." Yum, yum, Gooood!  It is supposed to be mixed with real meat in a 1:3 ratio (one part TVP to 3 parts meat) but we get pure TVP, often served as "nuggets" in some kind of fake gravy.  All I can tell you is that it tastes really bad and is like chewing on a flip-flop.  And we get this every day...The real story here, though, when it comes to our food, is that back in the early 1970's, when I first entered the system, the entire DOC was self-sufficient in food.  We grew and raised all our own food, and we ate good, at a minimum cost to taxpayers.  Every prison (and there are about 80 in Florida) has hundreds, sometimes thousand of acres of good farmland.  With free inmate labor and free land, you can grasp how cheap our food was.  We had huge chicken farms, dairies, orange groves, vegetable fields, lots of beef cattle and hogs, which we butchered in our own slaughter houses.  But, in the 1980's, in one of the most scandalous moves in DOC history (and the DOC is a notoriously corrupt and incompetent agency) the big wigs chose to close down all our farms and start buying all our food from freeworld vendors. And they had the temerity to claim this was to save money!! The true purpose was to steal money.  With millions of dollars now going to vendors, and DOC officials deciding who would get these contracts, kickbacks became the name of the game, as they still are.  The food we get from vendors is often unfit for human consumption.  All of our potatoes arrive here rotten.  We buy rotten food which the vendors cannot unlaod anywhere else, yet on paper, we are paying for "choice" food at high prices.  The difference is going into officials' pockets, and that's a fact...If any independent investigation was ever conducted into this, people would go to jail.  But nobody cares what prison officials do; they know they are safe from prying eyes.  It's always been that way (although James Crosby, a previous Secretary of our DOC went to federal prison for a massive bribery and kickback scheme involving our canteen vendor, Keefe Commissary Company).  It was sheer luck and happenstance that it ever came to light.  But nothing has changed.  Keefe is back in business here again (after being banned for a few years) and the price gouging and kickbacks remain.  If Governort Rick Scott, and the new Secretary Edwin Buss, are truly serious about saving money, they can begin by reinstituting our prison farm system.  That would save taxpayers millions of dollar annually (and improve the health and diet of its 100,000 plus prisoners).
Love & Peace,