Jail’s food service short on quality, quantity

HOUGHTON – Dietary conditions were among the many deficiencies found in a 2010 Michigan Department of Corrections evaluation of the Houghton County Jail, a point independently confirmed recently by a current inmate.

“The inmates are served one hot meal a day that would make a four-year-old ask for more,” C. Fischer, an inmate of the jail wrote recently. “The menu has not changed in 10-plus years.”

Fischer’s claim could not be confirmed, since he has not been incarcerated in the jail for 10 years. Houghton County Sheriff Brian McLean disputed the time length of that claim.

“He was wrong on this one,” he said. “The menu hasn’t changed in 20 (years).”

Fischer wrote the nutritional value of the food served at the jail is substandard, as well as the culinary skills of the people preparing the meals.

“This is a reason to complain, but not a critical issue,” Fischer admitted. Cooking canned food on a range for as many as 40 people at a time, Fischer stated, has never been a problem, yet “$100,000 is being spent to expand the kitchen and office area.”

A two-year study that looked at the feasibility of regional jails in the Upper Peninsula was released by the MDOC in 2010. The study, which looked at each jail in Upper Michigan, revealed several deficiencies, including dietary allowances, in the Houghton Jail. Six years after the study was released, none of these substandard conditions have improved at the jail.

In discussing the overcrowding issue and the unsanitary conditions covered in a previous article in this series, Fischer wrote, “For a menu that consists of mostly cold food seems to be a very strange way to address unsanitary and unsafe conditions.”

The kitchen for the jail’s inmate population was intended to serve the family of the resident sheriff. While cosmetic upgrades to a functional kitchen are being addressed, the real issues concerning the condition of the facility are ignored, Fischer wrote.

“Meanwhile, excuses are given to the public why funding is not available,” Fischer wrote. “The deteriorating conditions and over crowding issues need immediate attention, so needs should come before extravagant, unneeded upgrades to a functional kitchen. An expansion or a new facility is desperately needed.”