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Studying the state of food in the nation’s prisons–and seeking to transform the experience of eating inside

Eating Behind Bars: Ending the Hidden Punishment of Food in Prison is the first national investigation of its kind. This six-part report explores the inequities and troubling trends in prison food, centering the perspectives of people who have been incarcerated while also examining food services policies and practices that affect more than 1.3 million people incarcerated in state prisons nationwide.

Executive Summary

A synopsis of the six-part report with key takeaways.

Introduction & Part 1

Food on a tray: A vivid portrait of mealtime in prison, characterized by food that is unappetizing, poor in quality, and sometimes unsafe

Part 2

When food harms: An up-close look at the nutritional value and quantity of food served in prison, and explores the relationship between diet and physical and mental health for incarcerated people.

Part 3

From the chow hall to “home cooking” in prison: A deeper look at the physical environments where prison meals take place and their effects on the health and well-being of incarcerated people.

Part 4

The prison food machine: A map of the operational landscape — the state-level policies and food service practices inside prisons that determine the quality of food in prison.

Part 5

Who’s looking? Who’s listening? A study of the systems and avenues that should function to hold departments of corrections accountable for the quality of food in prison.

Part 6

A path forward: A framework of key insights to encourage and guide change toward a positive and nourishing eating experience in prison.

Methodology