Statement of CSPI Senior Policy Associate Jessi Silverman
Everyone deserves access to healthy and appetizing food, but this is far from reality for incarcerated people in the District of Columbia’s correctional facilities. In recent years, local advocates have shed light on longstanding problems in the Department of Corrections, including rampant hunger, inedible food that often goes to waste, and rare access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Secure DC Omnibus Amendment Act, passed by the DC Council today upon first reading, would help to address these issues.
However, the bill does not go far enough to address nutritional conditions in the jails. It entrusts too much responsibility for nutritional quality, food safety, and palatability to the DOC and provides limited accountability to independent authorities and the public.
The DC Department of Health, not the DOC, should take the lead on developing nutrition standards for meals at the jail. The Corrections Information Council, an independent monitoring body, should perform regular, unannounced inspections of the DOC food service operations. The DOC should be required to periodically survey facility residents to gather feedback on the food service.
CSPI, along with 30 local organizations, urge the Council to strengthen the nutrition section of Secure DC before the bill comes back to the Council for a second reading.
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