LOCAL News :: Prisons

VAPrisonJustice: Without Words

Prisoners in VA's largest "correctional center" stage a one day meal boycott to demand dignity and to challenge the privatization of food services.
Without Words

Without a whole lot of words, Virginia's largest prison, Greensville Correctional Center had a mass sitdown on January 15, 2007. Nearly every prisoner in the three unit maximum secuity multi facility prison refused to eat.  They didn't go to breakfast, they didn't go to lunch, and they didn't go to dinner.

Officers and staff officials were bewildered at the silent protest that swept through the prison. Every unit, more than three thousand prisoners, were all of the same mind: "Boycott the Chow Halls!"

It felt good to be part of such an intelligent mode of protest and for such a good cause.  Also for it to be kicked off on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday no less.  It somehow identified us with those who struggled against oppression in the 50's and 60's and I was really proud of my felow prisoners.

One reason for the protest was because of the deplorable conditions in the food service department now adays.  Since the Virginia Department of Corrections handed over the duty of providing meals to the population to a private business, "Canteen", the prisoners have suffered greatly: a great many more processed foods, poor quality fruits and vegetables, cutbacks in food portions, meals recycled and served again the next day, a food borne illness outbreak among the religious diet participants, poorly trained staff, unprofessionalism, greater emphasis on profit than on the needs of the prisoners, and they actually established a rule that they won't serve fruit or the second pouch of milk (4 oz.) unless we request it individually as we're being served and if we forget then we can't come back to get it.

Doing time is one thing, but when it comes to this handling of our meals we all agree that they have crossed the line.

The other option to what's going on in the kitchens is the private business that now runs the commissary and the other one that is allowed to sell us food packages twice a year. The VA DOC, knowing that cutbacks were coming to the kitchens, sold the rights to run the commissary to a private business "Keefe", and contracted with "American Commissary Supply" to exclusively sell food packages to all the prisoners in the VA system. There is of course some quid pro quo involved wherein the DOC gets a financial cut of the revenue and they allow the companies to charge whatever they choose for their goods. Prisoners are not allowed to buy from any other (cheaper) companies and so the amount of money involved is enormous.

The bottom line is that we prisoners, no matter our background, we recognize a hustle (a scam, a money making scheme) when we see one.

And we responded this time without any words.

Rashid Qawi Al-Amin
# 178990
Greensville Correctional Center
901 Corrections Way
Jarratt, VA 23870-9614

for more information or to receive more writings by VA Prisoners please contact:
vaprisonjustice (at) riseup.net