Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Not a legal profession case, but perhaps of interest is a recent decision of the Vermont Supreme Court, holding that putting prison inmates on a Nutraloaf diet constitutes punishment and obligates the state to accord the protections of due process. The Nutraloaf diet consists of "a compost of whole wheat bread, non-dairy cheese, carrots, canned spinach, raisins, Great Northern beans, vegetable oil, tomato paste, powdered milk, and potato flakes, mashed together and baked in a loaf pan."
The majority scoffs at the "parade of horribles" recited by a dissenting justice.
The dissent is rather interesting:
Nor does the fact that Nutraloaf is, according to the inmates who may be served it, no more appealing than standard prison fare require us to reverse the trial court’s decision.The Department does not bear the burden of ensuring that the food it provides to excrement-throwing prisoners is precisely as appealing as the food it provides to other inmates. Indeed, the only reliable way to ensure that the special management meals would not be less appealing than standard prison food would be to design them to be a great deal more appealing than the usual fare. Even that strategy might founder on the shoals of the simple fact that different people have different tastes in food. The need to avoid such an absurd result is precisely why the cases uniformly recognize that nonpunitive measures may have incidentally deterrent effects without being deemed punitive.
Somewhere someone may be saying, in the spirit of "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time," something like "Don't throw the sh*t if you can't eat the Nutraloaf." (Mike Frisch)