Thursday, November 29, 2012

U.S. Attorney Admits BOP Served Meat Intended as Pet Food to Prisoners

According to the Justice Department, John Soules Foods of Tyler, Texas has entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, concluding a three-year investigations that the company sold meat trimmings intended for pet food to customers for human consumption, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). the meat was apparently either adulterated or mislabeled before it was sold to a  food broker who later re-sold the product to the BOP.

Although the BOP claims that its food meets all federal standards for prisoner consumption, federal prisoners would argue otherwise. There are periodic complaints about meat served in the system causing prisoners to become ill and sometimes hospitalized, as occurred in Pennsylvania in the past year. In 2011 and 2012, some BOP facilities attempted to utilize meat trimmings packed into plastic sleeves in various dishes, although prisoners complained about the smell and taste. the quality of that meat was so poor that it could not be formed into either meat loaf or hamburgers.

This followed the 2010 incidents in some BOP prisons where a cubed form of turkey was passed off as chicken. Prisoners complained that its rubbery texture and taste made it unpalatable. It was eventually pulled from the menu when prisoners filed complaints which properly pointed out that the item was not on the BOP National Menu, and at that time, it was improper to serve it. Although prisoners are used to being served expired food and bruised fruit, poor quality meat by-products intended for use as pet food will always bring complaints. The unanswered question is: What is happening to food purchased for prisoner consumption if what is being served is of such poor and unwholesome quality?

Under the agreement, John Soules Foods will pay $392,000 to the U.S. Treasury General Fund to resolve the investigation and reimburse its costs, and in return Soules will not be subject to additional criminal, civil, or administrative action. Soules is the leading fajita processing and marketing company in the United States and employs approximately 500 people. It makes meat products for food service distributor, chain restaurants and supermarkets across the country, something to think about the next time that you go shopping.

According to the U.S. Attorney in Texas, John M. Bales, "The settlement agreement upholds the government's commitment to food safety while also recognizing that John Soules foods, Inc. is a good corporate citizen with a long record of regulatory compliance and customer satisfaction. We fully support the USDA's vigorous protection of the nation's food supply."  The company will adopt additional procedures to assure that laws such as the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act will be followed, and will undertake a thorough review of existing procedures, books and records, and policies to ensure continuing compliance.

The case was investigated by the Office of the Inspector General, Office of Investigation, and Food Safety and Inspection Service, of the USDA, as well as the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of the Inspector General. There was no announcement as to whether the BOP will be required to overhaul its food purchasing policies to determine whether food purchased for prisoners meets minimal standards of quality to prevent a repetition of this action in the future. The U.S. attorney's office was quick to announce that, "there is no evidence that anyone who consumed any of the 'beef trimmings' product suffered any ill effect;" of course, the BOP's closed prison medical care system is not known for its alacrity in investigating prisoner complaints of food poisoning or stomach upset from ingesting expired or salvaged food products. It is highly unlikely that the from ingesting expired or salvaged food products. It is highly unlikely that the BOP will bring forth any statistics of such incidents unless compelled to do so.

See also: www. 0817

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Money from Drug Forfeitures Trips Up Cop

Usually no one cares when a drug dealer loses money through a little-known or understood forfeiture proceeding. This law, beloved by police departments nationwide, has been a lucrative source of cash to fund cop wish-lists. In some cases, however, it just provides a juicy temptation for greedy cops.

Michael Newsome, of North Chicago, IL, is one such cop. He stands accused of helping himself to $140,000 of such drug forfeiture funds. He apparently did not appreciate the inherent irony in taking the drug money. As Mexico has found out, the presence of large sums of cash does strange things to many people, including law enforcement agencies.

We should also focus on laws that permit forfeiture with only the low threshold of "probable cause" that it might be connected to the drug trade to permit its seizure. It might be time to give such laws a second look, and see if giving government and law enforcement largely unchecked and unsupervised forfeiture power squares with our democratic legal traditions.