Former inmates at Arizona’s Perryville prison say the prison fed them food labeled “not for human consumption” while they were incarcerated, the Phoenix New Times reports.
Investigating tips from former inmates, the outlet spoke with six women who spent time at the prison over the last twenty years and heard from each one that they were served chicken and lunch meat that was clearly marked as not being for humans.
The Arizona Department of Corrections, which contracts with the Florida-based Trinity Services Group to feed its nearly 42,000 inmates, denies that it served food labeled “not fit for human consumption” to its inmates. Several Arizona correctional officers, however, took to a closed Facebook group and confirmed that they served such food to inmates.
Among the inmates the Phoenix New Times spoke to is Lola Levesque, who said that while serving time in the prison, she occasionally helped unload food delivery trucks, which is how she discovered the rumors about the prison’s food were true.
“I personally only saw it on the chicken legs and thighs that were coming in,” Levesque said. But she said she knew the food ended up in the kitchen, because the boxes were placed in a walk-in cooler.
Julie Butler, who was at Perryville from 2003 to 2008 and worked in the kitchen, told the Phoenix New Times the same thing: Cardboard boxes of chicken came stamped with “not for human consumption” on their sides. “Everybody saw it,” she said. “We’d ask about it all the time … I never got a straight answer.”
The chicken looked normal, Butler said, so she wasn’t sure why it was labeled that way.
More recent ex-inmates also reported that the chicken labeled “not for human consumption” is still being served, but said that lunch meat with the same label is now also being served.
Sierra Bruce, who was released in August, said that deli meats like ham, bologna, and salami were labeled as not being fit for human consumption and were “already turning green” and reeked of “an awful smell” by the time they arrived in the prison kitchen.
Bill Lamoreaux, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Corrections, initially told the Phoenix New Times that the department takes these claims seriously, but that, after looking into it, found “no evidence to support this allegation.”
But on Thursday, the department’s acting director, Joe Profiri, sent a letter to Trinity demanding an investigation into its supply chain, according to ADC spokesperson Andrew Wilder. Profiri also asked the ADC Inspector General to launch a “fact-finding investigation of this matter,” the Phoenix New Times reported.
Trinity, which serves 43 states and is said to maintain over $500 million in annual revenue, is no stranger to controversy. Michigan prison officials found maggots in inmates’ chow three separate times in 2017, and that was after the company’s substandard food sparked hunger strikes in Michigan prisons in 2016. The company’s food also sparked an attempted riot in Colorado.
The Arizona DOC’s contract with Trinity began in 2013, for about $40 million per year, and doesn’t expire until January 2023.