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Food, Power and Punishment

What part should food play in punishment?

Nothing to eat but stale bread and water - an enduring image of incarceration, but what part should food play in punishment? In America, the 'Nutraloaf' - a compressed food-stuff with just enough calories to keep you alive - has been used for decades to punish prisoners in solitary confinement, but many say it contravenes even the most basic human rights. Manuela Saragosa speaks to the man who brought a class action against the state of New York to get it banned. Plus, a prison dietician tells us about the difficulty of planning a nutritious daily menu on a budget of just $2.30 per day.

Food can also play a vital role in rehabilitation and help recreate a sense of normality. We hear from the Dutch prison using nutrition to appease violent behaviour, and find out about The Clink Restaurant - a dining experience with a twist. We get a lesson from a former convict on the challenging art of prison cooking. Finally, when all freedom has been taken from you, how the refusal of food can become a powerful political weapon.


Daniel Genis: Journalist, writer, ex-convict
Heather Ann Thompson: Mass incarceration historian, Michigan University
Taylor Pendergrass: New York Civil Liberties Union
Barbara Wakeen: Prison nutritionist
Ap Zaalberg: Dutch Ministry of Justice
Dr Sarah Campbell: Professor of Irish and British history, Newcastle University
Al Crisci: Creator of the Clink Restaurant

(Photo: Hands behind bars. Credit: Thinkstock)

Available now

27 minutes

Last on

Sun 28 Feb 2016 23:32GMT


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