ACA, others require safe, healthy diets

Michelle Park

Detention Officer Troy Loomis of the Kent Police Department displays a typical prisoner meal ticket. Meals are provided by Mike’s Place Restuarant for a discounted price. “It’s better than other prison food, that’s for sure,” says Loomis. Prisoners are of

Credit: Andrew popik

The facility discontinued salmon patties three years ago. It ceased serving liver seven years ago.

It has four full-time chefs, and it creates orders the mouths will enjoy. As it turned out, salmon patties and liver dishes were not among those orders.

It’s not a restaurant, and it’s not a school cafeteria. It’s the Erie County Jail in Sandusky.

In addition to responding to its inmates’ preferences, the jail also follows the minimum standards set by the American Correctional Association, said jail administrator Scott Ickes. The association looks to ensure jails operate constitutionally.

The organization accredits those institutions that follow its standards, said Robert Verdeyen, the director of standards and accreditation for the association. In order to achieve accreditation, institutions need to meet 100 percent of the association’s mandatory life, health and safety issues and 90 percent of all other standards. Many institutions go beyond the standards.

The menu at the Trumbull County Jail, for example, exceeds the association’s minimum standards, said head cook Crystal Lapinski.

“We make everything mostly from scratch,” she said, noting that the kitchen’s homemade meals include casseroles, soups and burritos.

The kitchen also serves mineral-fortified juices, and sometimes white cake or cookies.

On average, feeding the inmates costs between $14,000 and $17,000 per month, Lapinski said.

At Summit County Jail in Akron meals cost 96.4 cents each, support services administrator Marianne Sweeney said. The jail had 712 inmates as of March 10, but that number “changes constantly because they get released and they get new ones booked in.”

The jail, while not accredited by the association, is accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and also follows the minimum standards for jails in Ohio, Sweeney said. It contracts with a management company based in Louisiana.

That company produces menus that must be approved by dietitians.

While there are American Correctional Association-accredited jails in Ohio, 32 state prisons are supervised by another entity, said JoEllen Lyons, representative of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The department’s published mission says it looks to ensure that its estimated 43,613 inmates — a number that is updated every Monday — are supervised in environments that are humane and secure. Currently, it costs $59.34 a day to care for each inmate in Ohio’s state prisons.

Each state prison has one of the department’s food service manuals on location, Lyons said. That manual is updated annually.

The Portage County Justice Center in Ravenna — where triple homicide suspect James Trimble currently resides — follows this manual and is accredited by the American Correctional Association, said Charles Logan, food service director of Aramark, the company that provides the meals there. Each inmate is provided three meals to meet a daily caloric intake of 2,600 calories. Some even consume evening snacks if they have special needs.

Some meals provided in the jail include chicken dishes and macaroni and cheese, Logan said, adding that his goal is to serve hot meals to inmates and to cover every food group.

“If you keep well-fed inmates, you have happy inmates,” he said. “The less complaints, the better.”

Contact public affairs reporter Michelle Park at [email protected].