ORLANDO – The recent shipment of food to the Orange County Corrections Department that included an unwelcome ingredient — insects — was an isolated incident that shouldn’t happen again, the spokesman for the jail said.
“There was one other minor incident, not exactly the same, in the mid-1990s, and that was it,” said Allen Moore, public information officer for the jail.
Earlier this month, inmates at the jail’s medium-security Whitcomb building found insects in the food being served to them. The inmates quickly pointed this out to a corrections officer.
The county jail houses not just inmates who have been sentenced to a term of less than two years, but anyone who has been arrested for committing a crime in Orange County, awaiting a court date. If that inmate doesn’t have the money for bail or to hire an attorney, they can sit in the jail for weeks or longer waiting to get into court. In the meantime, they haven’t been convicted of a crime – but they’re still stuck in jail.
“Sixty-six percent of most jail populations are not yet convicted of the crimes for which they were accused,” Moore said.
That’s one of the reasons, he said, why “Our goal is humane treatment.”
That includes providing decent meals to inmates, he said.
“We’re watching everything very closely, and so far everything is going well,” Moore said.
Moore said food is provided to the jail by Trinity Food Service. The parent company, Trinity Services Group, is a part of Canteen Correctional Services, which provides commissary services to more than 70,000 correctional inmates across the U.S.
Trinity blamed the infests on the trucks they used to transport it to the jail, and Moore said those trucks are no longer in use.
“They’re replacing those trucks being used, and it only reached a small number of inmates that we serve,” he said. “I don’t know how many trays got into the hands of inmates, but they saw it had insects and pointed it out to an officer, who had the trays removed. It wasn’t a whole slew of bugs, just one or two running here and there — which is bad enough.”
Overall, he added, Trinity has a good record.
“They’re done a very good job,” he said. “Some jails run their own food service, like Polk County. Ours is a mega jail — we’re roughly the third largest jail in the state. The jail menus are approved by a nutritionist, and we have to meet Florida Model Jail standards, and we’re inspected by the American Correctional Association, the national accrediting agency for jails. We need to show that we meet national standards of care and control.”
Trinity has been under contract with the jail since 2001, he added, and “We have no complaints with Trinity. Those trucks are no longer in use. Ironically, that same week that occurred, those trucks were supposed to come off line. It only appeared to be involving that one truck. They cleaned out all the trucks, not just that one, with a bleech solution, and after that meal was served — there was no evening meal – they fumigated the truck. Just to be sure, they brought in rental trucks for the meals as well.”
Based in Tampa, Trinity notes on its web site that it has “become the predominant correctional foodservice contractor in Florida. By 2000 Trinity was successfully operating every major County Jail foodservice contract that had been awarded in Florida.”
Canteen’s site emphasizes the importance of “quality and nutrition” in their commissary services.
“We understand that mealtime plays a critical role in the overall stability of a secure facility – and we take that responsibility very seriously,” the site notes. “To help reinforce a sense of order and control within your facility, we make sure that all food is properly prepared and presented. Canteen is committed to providing food service programs that achieve these objectives three times a day, seven days a week.”
As far as the nutritional requirements, “Canteen’s on-staff registered dietitians meet with clients and medical staff to develop nutritious menus,” the site claims. “We exceed federal, state and local guidelines, and respect individuals’ dietary and religious requirements.”
The Orange County Corrections Department’s Inmate Handbook states that prisoners have “the right to expect to be treated fairly by all staff members,” and that they have “the right to nutritious meals, proper bedding, clean clothing and a laundry schedule for exchanging county issued clothing, an opportunity to shower regularly, availability of toilet articles, and accessibility of medical treatment.”
As for meals, the handbook notes that three meals are served daily: breakfast at 5:30 a.m., lunch at 11 a.m. and dinner at 4 p.m.
“There are no extra helpings,” the handbook states. “Meals will be eaten at meal times. No food (including condiments) will be taken back to the sleeping area. No pork products are served. If for medical reasons, you need a special diet, you must be seen by the Health Services Division for an evaluation of dietary needs.”
The Southern Center for Human Rights, which advocates human rights for prisoners, notes that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with the highest incarceration rates in southern states.
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