IF YOU’RE a prisoner in America, you know that you’ve misbehaved if this lands on your plate.
Nutraloaf (or as it’s sometimes creatively nicknamed ‘disciplinary brick,’ ‘confinement loaf,’ or the especially appetising
‘special management meal’), can come in varying shades of grey and brown, can be eaten without a knife and fork, and is usually made up of a motley selection of ingredients that have no business being baked together. It has enough nutritional value to keep you alive … but you may wish to die after tasting the first mouthful.
Nutraloaf made its debut as a punishment in the American prison system in the 1970s. Prisoners who threw food, utensils or even bodily fluids at guards and other inmates would see their regular prison fare replaced with the unsavoury loaf, which some find so disgusting it’s incentive enough to behave.
“Food is very important to prisoners in a deprived and harsh environment; it is one of the very few things they have to look forward to,” explains David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project in the NY Times.
The ingredients vary from state to state. Pennsylvania prison chefs invented a chickpea version, while Illinois included ground beef and applesauce in its court-contested recipe.
The version in New York State prisons uses an assortment of baking staples and hard-to-overcook vegetables, including shredded carrots and unskinned potatoes.
But there’s good news for prisoners in those New York prisons — they will no longer have to choke down this horrific concoction. On Wednesday it was announced nutraloaf was being removed from the menu.
“We will eliminate the loaf,” announced Alphonso David, the chief counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo. You can only imagine this news was met throughout the prison system with much hooting and hollering and metal cups being clanged against iron bars.
Other states are also trying to ban the brick, claiming that it violates civil rights. It was first mentioned by the US Supreme Court in 1978 in Hutto v. Finney while ruling that conditions in the Arkansas penal system constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Lawsuits regarding nutraloaf have taken place in several other states, including Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Washington, Vermont and West Virginia.
Here are some journalists in the US sampling the hellish loaf.