Monday, October 12, 2015

The Conspiracy Continues: Pork Banned From Federal Prisons (NOT A PARODY)

Sorry Porky. The U.S. Government just banned you.

We've reported on this sort of thing before. See, for example, here.

Before reprinting the recent source article from the Washington Post, let me lay out a few facts:

Perhaps 15% of the U.S. Federal prison population is Muslim, which is about fifteen times greater than the proportion of Muslims in the general population. To some extent this may reflect inmates becoming Muslim behind bars, as it is estimated that 80% of all prison religious conversions are to Islam.

The Jewish proportion of prisoners is much smaller, especially at maximum-security federal prisons. Indeed, many sources report that the pattern of Jewish incarceration reflects what some might see as the "Jewish stereotype"--the small number of Jews that there are in federal and state prisons tend to be in lower-security accommodations for those guilty of tax evasion or other financial crimes.

One difficulty in estimating the numbers comes from the trend for some prisoners to identify as religious--especially and notably Jewish--in order to get certain perks, such as being allowed to grow beards or eat kosher food. One reason why someone might want to do this can be seen in the fact that the average day's worth of kosher food costs the prison system five times the normal price.

If you were forcibly served meals worth $1.50 a day, think how you might like to move up to meals worth $7.50 a day.

Here is a sample 2016 Federal Prison menu for the week:
No bacon for you. But enjoy your margarine pat.

It is unclear what effect banning pork will have on Muslim and Jewish dietary choices in prison. As the article states, granting special food options to certain religious has a long and court-approved history. And obviously, for both Muslims and Jews, there is more to their dietary restrictions than not eating pork.

My own personal view is that the religious beliefs of prisoners should be accommodated, within reason, though with the application of the proper skepticism. It seems the least that should be done, whatever I or anyone else might think of the merits (or lack of them) of the religions concerned.

But it should be noted that in the current case and similar cases, Muslims usually push first for accommodation and then for normalization. According to the article below, the Council of American-Islamic Relations has applauded the elimination of pork from the menus of all prisoners (including those 85% who are not Muslim). I know of no Jewish group that has done so.

Jews want to be left alone. Muslims want to take over. Or so it seems. But maybe that's just my Islamophobia talking.

By Lisa Rein, October 9:
Finally, the government has decided to eliminate pork — from the menu in federal prisons 
The nation’s pork producers are in an uproar after the federal government abruptly removed bacon, pork chops, pork links, ham and all other pig products from the national menu for 206,000 federal inmates. 
The ban started with the new fiscal year last week. 
The Bureau of Prisons, which is responsible for running 122 federal penitentiaries and feeding their inmates three meals a day, said the decision was based on a survey of prisoners’ food preferences: 
They just don’t like the taste of pork. 
“Why keep pushing food that people don’t want to eat?” asked Edmond Ross, a spokesman for the prison bureau. “Pork has been the lowest-rated food by inmates for several years,” It also apparently got more expensive for the government to buy, although he did not provide specifics. 
The National Pork Producers Council isn’t buying it. “I find it hard to believe that a survey would have found a majority of any population saying, ‘No thanks, I don’t want any bacon,'” said Dave Warner, a spokesman for the Washington-based trade association, which represents the nation’s hog farmers. 
“We’re going to find out how this came about and go from there,” Warner said. “We wouldn’t rule out any options to resolve this.” He said the association “is still formulating our strategy” to reverse the prison decision, which the industry first learned about Monday when the Fort Worth Star-Telegram called for comment. 
The pork industry produces 24 billion pounds a year of pork products, from tenderloin to bacon, its most popular product. About a quarter of that is exported. 
Warner said pork is healthy and economical, especially for a big buyer like the federal government. “Not to throw beef under the bus, but we cost a lot less than beef.” 
“We’re nutritious,” he said. “A boneless pork chop or loin is a very healthy alternative to lots of other foods. If you compare a pork tenderloin to a rib eye steak and a boneless chicken breast, we come out pretty well.” 
But Ross said that based on annual surveys of inmates’ food preferences, pork lost its luster years ago. To wit: In the last two years, the federal prison menu dropped to just two pork products, he said. 
“And we were paying more than what we’d like to pay,” Ross said. 
“People are more health conscious these days,” he said. “Some people choose to be vegetarian or vegan. That’s their preference.” As of last week, the prison menu had added an “economically viable” turkey bacon substitute. 
Incarcerated pork lovers still have an option: The prison commissary, a convenience store that sells packaged pork rinds and precooked bacon. But they have to pay. 
Observant Muslims and Jews are forbidden to eat pork, and the prison system has long made accommodations for them by providing alternatives to pork and halal and kosher foods. Ross declined to say whether there has been an increase in Muslim or Jewish inmates in recent years and whether that may have factored into the survey responses. 
“In general we welcome the change because it’s facilitating the accommodation of Muslim inmates,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Muslim civil rights advocacy group. “We hope it’s not an indication of an increasing number of Muslims in the prison system.” 
Hooper predicted that anti-Islam groups would spin the decision into a case of the federal government acting under pressure from Muslims. 
“This is just the kind of thing that drives them crazy,” he said. “It will stoke the fires of Islamophobia based on the usual conspiracy theories.”

No comments:

Post a Comment