Nutrition news

Tasmanian prison food, cooking practices in need of an overhaul, detention inspector says

Tasmanian prison kitchen staff have been accused of warding off food allergies and food-borne illness among prisoners and telling Muslim inmates that meats containing pork were pork-free, a detailed review of the law has revealed. nutrition in prison.

Tasmania’s custodial inspector has made 20 recommendations following an inspection of the food served in state prisons, assisted by dietitian Ngaire Hobbins.

Richard Connock’s report – based on inspections in 2020 – found that while food was of sufficient quality and quantity to meet the nutritional needs of inmates, no one engaged in meal preparation was trained in food hygiene , in what was described as a “process breakdown.”

Ms Hobbins identified there was ‘unwarranted scepticism’ among kitchen and custodial staff about a female inmate diagnosed with celiac disease.

The prisoner was given breaded fish and wheat crackers, but was refused peanut butter despite being gluten-free.

The report details that a correctional staff member commented, “diagnoses of ‘things like gluten sensitivity [are] far above, [and are] basically garbage.”

The government said it “recognizes that complaints about the standard, quality, quantity and variety of food are a common occurrence in Australian correctional facilities”. (ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Ms Hobbins disagreed in her consultant’s report, which was released with the inspector’s review.

“Celiac disease should be treated seriously and those affected should follow a strictly gluten-free diet,” Ms Hobbins wrote.

“I’m afraid that’s really not possible within the confines of the kitchen as it is laid out.

A number of prisoners expressed concern that devon, salami and other processed meats were not pork-free.

Prison staff assured them the meats were pork-free, but the guard’s inspector discovered that the salami actually contained pork and the meat in Devon was “unspecified”.

“This is extremely concerning, especially given claims over time that there was no pork in these products,” Ms Hobbins wrote.

A Muslim prisoner said that although the kitchen was aware of their religious requirements, they were repeatedly given ham salads.

Generic cup of coffee or tea
Inmates started making “teabacco” following the smoking ban.(ABC News: Simon Frazer)

The inspection team gave a grim description of the tasty mincemeat they tested at Launceston Reception Jail.

“The salty hash wasn’t good,” they wrote.

The report also reveals that maximum security prisoners were given packet soup for lunch, although there was no way for them to reheat it.

He said many inmates gained weight while incarcerated, which could be due to portion sizes, as “essentially the meals are for men”.

One inmate said much of the food provided was high in sugar and criticized the reliance on “low fat” versions of foods such as sour cream and mayonnaise, which are also high in sugar. sugar.

A prisoner with an abdominal band was not given proper food and lost 12 kilograms which she had no intention of losing.

Teabacco’s response to the smoking ban

The report says that when the smoking bans were introduced, a practice arose among inmates of steeping tea to infuse it with nicotine from patches or lozenges, then drying it to roll it in. a cigarette, known as a “teabacco”.

Teabags are no longer available in the Tasmanian Prison Service except in limited quantities.

Prisoners now resort to drying various vegetables, such as lettuce and broccoli, for the same purpose, according to the report.

“While this was a safe and/or effective method of nutrient delivery, which is highly questionable, I have not been able to find any research that demonstrates that the nutrients these vegetables provide are absorbed in this way,” Ms Hobbins wrote.

Ms Hobbins said the practice was likely a ‘net negative’ nutritionally, a waste of food and meant the decision to remove the teabags appeared to be ‘counterproductive’.

Broccoli in groceries
The government said it “supports the principle that a nutritious and varied diet for prisoners is a fundamental right”.(ABC: Bec Whetham)

In its response to the review, the Justice Department said the detention inspector’s report gives it an opportunity to make changes to improve the health and well-being of detainees.

He said he was committed to working with the custodial inspector, the health department and TasTAFE to address the report’s findings.

“The Department supports the principle that a nutritious and varied diet for prisoners is a fundamental right,” he said.

“However, it is recognized that complaints about the standard, quality, quantity and variety of food are common in Australian correctional facilities.

He said the Prison Service now has a contract for salami and Devon made from lamb and beef.

He was investigating the issue of the prisoner with a belly band and said he was doing special diet assessments.