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)