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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Are Two Meals a Day (and Soy!) Enough for a Prisoner? Is the ADA Violated? The Eighth Amendment?

Serving two meals a day -- a 10:00 AM brunch and a 4:00 PM dinner -- served to prisoners raises a triable Eighth Amendment claim. So holds an Illinois federal court. The court also found that the prison's Soy diet raises also raises an Eighth Amendment claim.

The plaintiff maintained that, not only is the meal policy nutritionally inadequate and that it causes health problems, but also that "the policy reflects a conspiracy on the part of the defendants to make a profit by forcing the inmates to buy more food from the prison commissary and to funnel money into the defendants' 'secret accounts.' " Owens v. Shah, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35375 (S.D. IL, March 18, 2016). Prison conditions that deprive inmates of basic human needs, such as inadequate nutrition, health, or safety, may constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981); James v. Milwaukee Cnty., 956 F.2d 696, 699 (7th Cir. 1992).

Is there a viable ADA claim? The plaintiff prisoner claimed that the policy caused him to suffer from severe headaches, hunger pains, low blood sugar, lethargy, and fatigue.  The court found that, although an ADA claim was asserted, there were no facts alleged which might support the prison defendants' liability under the ADA.

Questions for litigators, both pro se prisoners and attorneys.  If the symptoms caused by the bad food policy had been articulated within the ADA rubric, would an ADA violation have been made out?  If we have what appears to be a clear constitutional violation, is there any benefit to the litigant to also include the statutory ADA violation?

Owens v. Shah, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35375 (S.D. IL, March 18, 2016).

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