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Life Threatening Retaliation in Soy Prison Lawsuit

You remember how dangerous soy is, don’t you? Well, not long ago, inmates in the Illinois state prison system actually filed a lawsuit against the state protesting their high soy diet — which they contend has been systematically destroying their health.

According to the Weston A Price foundation, which is financially backing the lawsuit, “Beginning in January 2003, inmates began receiving a diet largely based on processed soy protein with very little meat. In most meals, small amounts of meat or meat by-products are mixed with 60-70 percent soy protein; fake soy cheese has replaced real cheese; and soy flour or soy protein is now added to most prison baked goods.” Since the diet began, inmates have complained of a “deliberate indifference” to “serious health problems caused by so much soy,” including chronic constipation alternating with diarrhea, vomiting, sharp pains, passing out, heart palpitations, rashes, acne, insomnia, panic attacks, depression and hypothyroidism.

Filing lawsuits is the only recourse allowed to inmates to address poor treatment, and yet the plaintiffs in this case are being subjected to life-threatening retaliation by prison guards and officials.

One such plaintiff was put in solitary confinement specifically for exercising his right to file a grievance. “Although prescribed a soy-free diet because of a thyroid condition and a life-threatening [allergic] reaction to soy products, many of the meals brought to him contained large amounts of soy.” The foundation said. “Thus, his four-month confinement became a period of forced starvation.” Others are facing harsh treatments as well:

Another plaintiff has gone on a hunger strike after being placed in solitary confinement and denied the soy-free commissary food he needs to survive. After strenuous objection by his attorney, the fabricated charge against him was dropped and he was released from confinement; but prison authorities continue to deny him his soy-free food and are threatening a feeding tube. He has been denied access to his possessions and prevented from making court-ordered phone calls to his son.

A third inmate, a plaintiff in a separate lawsuit, has been subject to extreme punishment, including having a finger broken, for filing grievances.

From the foundation’s press release:

Soy is touted as a way to save money and to provide a diet lower in calories and saturated fat. However, soybeans contain plant estrogens and other toxins and anti-nutrients that make soy products unacceptable as a source of nutrition except in very small amounts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists over 200 studies showing toxicity of soy in its Poisonous Plant Database. Although the FDA allowed a soy-prevents-heart disease health claim in 1999, the agency is considering revoking that claim in the face of evidence that soy does not lower cholesterol and does not prevent heart disease.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit have requested a temporary restraining order against further retaliation. According to Fallon, “The tactics of Illinois prison personnel puts the lives of the plaintiffs in danger and increase liability issues for the state of Illinois.”

The soy products are produced by Archer Daniels Midland, according to the Weston A Price Foundation. The foundation said ADM “contributed heavily to the campaign of Blagojevich. The change from a diet based largely on beef to one based on soy happened in 2003, when Mr. Blagojevich began his first term as governor.” Considering that this now disgraced governor was subsequently indicted on federal corruption charges and removed from office, I don’t find this allegation hard to believe.

If you’re at all like me, you find it hard to be sympathetic towards prisoners. In many places around the world, and in times not so long in the past, prisons were much worse institutions than they are in the modern U.S. I’ve read enough of my Bible and Dicken’s novels to know that. Nevertheless, I do believe these prisoners have basic human rights — including the right to legally complain in order to address grievances. Even if you believe that their lawsuit is totally unjustified or silly, you must admit they have the right to file the lawsuit.

How is it, then, that the prison system can subsequently treat these prisoners in such inhumane ways — forcing them to choose between eating a diet their doctors said would completely destroy their health or not eating at all, putting them in prolonged solitary confinement, breaking bones — in retaliation for their exercising a constitutional right?

We don’t live in the Dark Ages. This is the United States of America, after all. And here, even prisoners have some basic human rights.

If you, like me, believe these inmates have a right to peacefully file grievances without being harassed and subjected to life-threatening retaliation, then do something about it. First, share this story with as many as you can. Second, join me in putting pressure on the current governor’s office to address these issues.

(photo by 4pizon)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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29 Responses to Life Threatening Retaliation in Soy Prison Lawsuit
  1. Jenny @ Nourished Kitchen
    October 8, 2009 | 12:14 pm

    It’s such a shame. My biggest concern is that the public will read these stories and think, “Who cares? They’re criminals.” The other shame is the political-business connection that caused this whole issue in the first place and for that the burden rests solely on the shoulders of their impeached governor and the ADM execs.
    .-= Jenny @ Nourished Kitchen´s last blog post …Light My Fire: Pickled Jalapeños =-.

  2. sippitysup
    October 8, 2009 | 2:03 pm

    I am glad to hear that they are sticking up for their rights. Prison or no all people have Human rights! GREG
    .-= sippitysup´s last blog post …These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things =-.

  3. ttexed
    October 8, 2009 | 2:38 pm

    Life Threatening Retaliation in Soy Prison Lawsuit http://bit.ly/aqQ1G

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. _halledavies
    October 8, 2009 | 3:45 pm

    Life Threatening Retaliation in Soy Prison Lawsuit | Food Renegade: You remember how dangerous soy is, don’.. http://bit.ly/iQaJE

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  5. EoinHealy
    October 8, 2009 | 4:31 pm

    Prisoners file suit against high soy diet and face prison authority retaliation http://bit.ly/Zfolp

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  6. Christina
    October 8, 2009 | 7:59 pm

    This is the google ad at the top of gmail when I opened this FR email:

    Unhealthy Myths About Soy – SoyNutrition.com – Research has Proven the Health Benefits of Soy – Learn the Truth

    Unbelievable!

  7. CHEESESLAVE
    October 8, 2009 | 8:41 pm

    I heard Sally Fallon Morell, President of the Weston A Price Foundation, say in an interview that more and more prisons are adopting soy (fake meat, cheese, soy flours, etc.) in their meal plans.

    She said they are also very concerned this may spread to school lunch programs and they want to set a legal precedent to prevent that from happening. A legal precedent like this would also send shockwaves through the soy industry, and it would create awareness among consumers. Which is just what we want!

    I’m very grateful for what the WAPF is doing to spearhead this issue. It is so important. Thanks for this post, Kristen!
    .-= CHEESESLAVE´s last blog post …Fast Food Dinner =-.

    • KristenM
      October 9, 2009 | 9:35 am

      Yet another great reason to help support this effort. Can you imagine what would happen if we started feeding this diet to our children?

      I remember the days when I was a kid and my parents scoffed at how soy was showing up in burgers, hot dogs, etc. as a sort of cheap “filler” that brought down the price. My parents were appalled, and could only say negative things about the fake food.

      Now that marketers have successfully spun soy as a “health-food” rather than a cheap, industrialized fake-food, many people welcome its presence. I know someone who just last week bragged about how she made a chili with TVP and NO meat that fooled her husband. She was so proud that she got this “healthy” food into him without his even knowing it!!! Can you believe it? Marketers have done an amazing job. Truly amazing.

      It’ll be good if soy can finally start getting some bad press again — particularly press that affects it’s “health food” claim.

  8. cheeseslave
    October 8, 2009 | 8:42 pm

    Life Threatening Retaliation in Soy Prison Lawsuit – http://shar.es/1euOK

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  9. Vin - NaturalBias
    October 9, 2009 | 7:38 am

    I agree, Kristen. I’m not very sympathetic towards prisoners, but they at least deserve good basic nutrition. After all, we all know that nutrition has a significant influence on the mind. If the government truly wants a prison system that encourages reformed behavior, this is an issue that they certainly shouldn’t be neglecting.
    .-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog post …Why the P90X Exercise Program is Overrated =-.

    • KristenM
      October 9, 2009 | 9:29 am

      A great point, Vin, and one I honestly hadn’t even considered. Thanks!

  10. vinmiller
    October 9, 2009 | 7:42 am

    Should prisoners be forced to eat unhealthy soy based foods? Not if you ask WAPF! http://bit.ly/kpLdZ by @foodrenegade

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  11. Zozo
    October 9, 2009 | 7:47 am

    Thank you for writing this. I have a friend who is incarcerated who within three months of being in the prison system thyroid (TSA) blood levels plummeted and now needs constant monitoring because they are borderline hypothyroidism. I also recently informed them I believed they were consuming large amounts of soy in their food.

    The sad part of this as one poster indicated is the general public will not care because they see only their criminal behavior and nothing more, forgetting those prisoners still have family and friends who care and love them, not their poor choices, but them as a beloved.

    Thank you so much for writing this. It is nice to know people do care because often times family and friends of prisoners encounter guilty by association.

  12. Catherine @ Healthy Fit Mom
    October 9, 2009 | 11:28 am

    Fake Soy products contain large amounts of MSG. The fake meat that I used to eat contained *SIX* msg ingredients. This definitely effects the brain ie. Brain Cell death. When these prisoners get out they will have psychiatric problems.

    I understand that they probably did not have stellar organic nutrient dense diets before they arrived but large amounts of Soy/MSG fed on a daily basis is not going to produce a healthy mind.

    Outrageous.
    .-= Catherine @ Healthy Fit Mom´s last blog post …Battling Seasonal Depression (S.A.D.) with Vitamins =-.

    • KristenM
      October 9, 2009 | 11:36 am

      Right, and if they’re really concerned about cost, they could do what Weston A Price did with his orphans. They ate CHEAP meals every day consisting of soaked oats, nutrient-dense bone broths, an egg or two, plus butter and cod liver oil. Bone broths ensured they got all the calcium & other minerals their bodies needed, eggs ensured they got enough cholesterol, soaked oats contributed vitamins, fats, carbs, and protein, and high-vitamin butter oil and cod liver oil ensure they got enough Vitamins A, D, K-12, omega-3s, etc.

  13. Mary P.
    October 9, 2009 | 5:15 pm

    Hi,

    Thanks for continuing the conversation about the use of soy in institutional food programs. I used to work in a senior meals program in MI and in OH (meals on wheels) and the two programs could not have been more different. In MI all the food was cooked on site and the quality was very high for average American dietary standards….. but in OH that was another story altogether. The meals were all prepared off-site by a contracted bulk meals distributor, they were of much lower quality and (surprise, surprise) most of the ‘meat’ was actually soy protein (TVP). We had many seniors complain about problems they were having with the meals – mostly digestive problems and one woman was actually allergic to soy and couldn’t eat them at all without making her sick. So it’s not that the prison dietary programs are alone – soy is already in other institutionalized food programs, it’s already in school meals, hospitals, senior centers, day cares, etc. The meal budgets for these institutions are pushed lower and lower and therefore soy and other adulterated ‘cheap’ foods are getting more and more utilized……. I am hoping that this case will receive the attention it deserves and point out the problems that ensue when we don’t demand good quality food. Thanks again!

  14. CarlaRose
    October 9, 2009 | 11:39 pm

    Life Threatening Retaliation in Soy Prison Lawsuit – http://shar.es/1dJXO

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  15. lschermann
    October 11, 2009 | 10:46 am

    Real food doesn’t have barcodes!

    This comment was originally posted on Mark’s Daily Apple

  16. Erin Nissen
    October 11, 2009 | 6:23 pm

    FIRST…all school children should recieve the best food possible and homeless children and famlies.

    This comment was originally posted on Mark’s Daily Apple

  17. dr john
    October 11, 2009 | 8:39 pm

    when you do the crime, you must do the time
    nutrition, or lack there of in prison, is one of the freedoms you loose when incarcerated
    do not commit crimes and you won’t have to worry about what is fed to you in prison

    too bad….eat your soy….you should not have committed the crime in the first place

    • Zozo
      October 13, 2009 | 7:30 am

      Dr. John,

      It appears to me you assume all those who become incarcerated are horrific people when in fact you are incorrect. There are so many vaguely written laws today that people are getting caught up in them or just plain ole poor laws that do nothing to protect society.

      Further, those incarcerated do those their freedom but they do not lose their human rights or their right to petition for those rights to be upheld which the SCOTUS has upheld, which is the premise of this article.

      I hope you nor anyone you love get caught up in one of the vague laws today that will cost them.

    • SoyVey
      April 1, 2013 | 7:10 pm

      “Dr. John” if you were actually a doctor you would know that soy can cause acute health problems in some individuals, and you would know that soy can be a potent allergen as well.

      Our law makers and judges decide the punishment for those convicted of crimes and it has been decided that those punishments should consist of incarceration, fines, community service, probation, and in a few cases, sex offender registration or death. It does not prescribe any punishment by deprivation of proper nutrition, exercise, or by administration of food that results in the deterioration of inmate health.

      Such things, if used as punishment, would ultimately affect some inmates more than others, and cause irreversible damage to some, thus resulting in a punishment that punished un-uniformly and was thus, unfair.

      As such, the corrections system has a legal obligation to take measures to avoid such things.

  18. Gordie Rogers
    October 12, 2009 | 4:33 am

    @ Mark, @ bfaber87, @ Rodney,

    Thank you for your encouragement! I appreciate your advice and encouragement. I will aim to focus on creating a realistic healthy lifestyle that I can maintain longterm. Thank you!

    This comment was originally posted on Mark’s Daily Apple

  19. Mark Sisson
    October 12, 2009 | 3:45 pm

    My pleasure, Gordie. Please stay in touch and good luck on your efforts. I’d suggest joining the forum for support and to get your questions answered. Cheers!

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/

    This comment was originally posted on Mark’s Daily Apple

  20. Nancy
    October 13, 2009 | 10:27 am

    Mark: Thanks for the link to Soft Star Shoes. Their soft soled moccasins are very comfortable and well made, and you can be creative in your color choices if you wish. I’ve got two pair myself and am now busy buying mocs for my family for birthday and Christmas gifts.

    This comment was originally posted on Mark’s Daily Apple

  21. Katie
    October 13, 2009 | 10:56 am

    Hi Mark,

    I wanted to second the thank you for the link to the Soft Star shoes. My son’s first shoes were Robeez (www.robeez.com) which are very similar to the Soft Star shoes, but of course, Robeez is for children only. I was wondering if there was an adult version of the Robeez, and now I have my answer! Thanks again.

    This comment was originally posted on Mark’s Daily Apple

  22. Mark Hill
    October 15, 2009 | 3:25 pm

    Well admittedly, I prefer my protein from a sustainable beef, pork or poultry source, and my soy in bio diesel, but I was totally unaware of the issue.

    Like most of the general public, I’m still puzzled with all of the controversy.

    Even from research, I will most likely get a highly biased response from the industry, health care professionals, and others.

    As an example, from a quick Google on the “Benefits of Soy Protein” , there were 210,000 hits showing some form of the pro soy movement, conversely, there were 13,500 hits when I Googled “Dangers of Soy Protein”.

    Granted this is not a scientific measure, but it is measure that shows why the public cannot reach a similar conclusion on the soy argument, when they in turn research the pros and cons of soy.

    Regardless, when a prisoner is incarcerated for his or her crimes, there are varying degrees why that person is there, some heinous, some because the prisoner could not afford a defense, much less a good defense with a court appointed attorney, and took a plea.

    None the less, as stated in the article, I agree with the point “I do believe these prisoners have basic human rights — including the right to legally complain in order to address grievances. Even if you believe that their lawsuit is totally unjustified or silly, you must admit they have the right to file the lawsuit.”

    One point not mentioned in the article, the staff is most likely being fed the same meals, I wonder if their voices would carry in more weight?
    .-= Mark Hill´s last blog post …Support Raw Milk in Texas =-.

  23. Thomas
    May 6, 2010 | 9:49 am

    Who new Soy would have such an adverse effect on the human body? Kinda strange that can’t find an alternative to soy that costs about the same without those effects. In Arizona I heard a sheriff was feeding the inmates green bologna, I wonder if that id cheaper or not?

  24. SoyVey
    April 1, 2013 | 6:53 pm

    I used to eat a lot of soy products until I developed thyroid problems and hormone issues.

    Soy is contraindicated with the use of my thyroid medication. I thought this was a bunch of bull until I tested it out myself and started adding a little bit of soy back into my diet. I discovered that consuming soy severely inhibits my ability to absorb my thyroid medication. Within a month of adding non-dairy soy based creamer to my tea my symptoms started to come back and my TSH levels crept back up. Once I removed the soy they dropped back down again. A few months after that my TSH levels started to creep back up and some of my symptoms had come back and I discovered the crackers I had been eating were made with soy oil. I cut them out and my levels came back down. Just about every time I start to have problems I discover it’s because I’ve started eating something that actually does have soy in it.

    It’s a massive b!tch because they’ve started to put soy in more and more things. It has even started popping up in deoderant and things you wouldn’t think soy would be in.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.