This blog post will be offering possible alternatives, solutions, and resources that could improve prison and prisoner health in the United States. As mentioned in previous blogs on this site, the health and wellness of inmates is very important to not only the inmates themselves, but also to the communities they will be eventually reintegrated into. There are so many facets involved with health and wellness that it’s virtually impossible for me to touch on every single one. So for this post, I’ve decided to focus on some areas that I have yet to discuss.
The first component of health that I will be addressing is social health. Social health can be defined as one’s ability to form meaningful social relationships with others. The formation of relationships for inmates can either positively or negatively impact other aspects of their health. The second component of health I will be exploring is nutritional health. This will be defined as nutrition that the inmates receive while behind bars (i.e. prison food). The last component I will be exploring is exercise while behind bars. Burning calories, sweating, and increasing physical fitness are imperative to a healthy lifestyle. Do prisoners have access to gyms or workout equipment to maintain this type of healthy lifestyle?
As mentioned, social health is the ability to form relationships with other people. People do this every day across the country, however inmates aren’t exactly afforded the same luxury. The only interactions inmates typically have are with other inmates and prison guards. To me, that doesn’t seem like a healthy way to live. While incarcerated, inmates should be maintaining their social skills and relationship building skills. Because once these inmates are released, they are expected to be able to form social relationships and know how to act in public and around other people. What about forming and building social relationships with their own children?
There are an estimated 3 million children across the country today that have at least one parent incarcerated. Due to this, children are not able to see their incarcerated parent(s) for more than a few hours at a time. The program “One Day with God” was established in order for convicted male felons to see and spend time with their child or children for an entire day. For these children, some have never even met their fathers until this day, for others, this is the one day a year they get to spend with them. This website shows a video that illustrates what happened on this day that the children got to spend with their fathers:
Nutrition is very important when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle as well. You grow up always being told to eat your vegetables and make smart choices. Well what types of choices are inmates afforded? There have been many disparities reported stating that prison food often does not meet the standards of what it should. Portion sizes are smaller, expiration dates are being ignored, and cleanliness levels of kitchens are at a standstill. This article provides some great insight into the world of prison food: http://www.medicaldaily.com/1-week-prison-food-diet-reveals-problems-inmate-meals-low-cost-bad-taste-and-349572
Prisoners are often served “nutraloaf” as punishment. Nutraloaf is essentially a big “loaf” that’s supposed to contain all of the necessary nutritional benefits of a normal meal. However, reports say that it is impossible to eat because of the taste. Prison inmates have tried suing correctional facilities for serving it to them because of how disgusting and inedible it truly is. Here is a video that gives you a better idea of how it tastes:
So, what can be done to solve this problem? I would suggest a way to have the prisoners be in charge of the quality and quantity of their own foods. Perhaps planting a prison garden, where the prisoners have to care for fruits and vegetables that can be used in the meals. Or perhaps more can be done to understand how prisoners are feeling about their food and what actions can be taken to improve it. Proper nutrition is vital for prisoners to maintain their health and wellness.
Exercise Behind Bars
Along with a proper diet, exercise is a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are many physical and mental benefits associated with working out. However, prisoners don’t exactly get to completely experience these benefits in most prisons across the United States today. In the last 20 years or so, exercise equipment has become less and less accessible to inmates. In most prisons, free weights have been removed, along with barbells and really anything else that can be used as a weapon. However, most prisons do offer meditation and yoga videos, but I feel that there is really no comparison to truly working out hard with equipment. This link provides an interesting background on working out while incarcerated: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2011/05/do_prisoners_really_spend_all_their_time_lifting_weights.html
Inmates should be allowed to exercise as much as they want while incarcerated. Exercising is not only good for one’s health, but I feel that it could also lower aggression levels in the inmates. When someone is sitting in the same spot all day long, they start building up energy and need to release it. I feel that having some type of quality gym or workout center would be very beneficial in dealing with that. Maybe the inmates even could train each other, to get everyone involved? Maybe they implement personal training or group training programs? The possibilities are endless.
What do you think about the topics and the proposed solutions? Leave a comment!