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Prison-Food Reporting Failure Found in Nevada

CARSON CITY, NEV. (CN) - A Nevada official violated state law by not properly analyzing and reporting on the nutritional content of food served to prisoners, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled.

The New Year's Eve decision says state law requires Nevada Chief Medical Officer Tracey Green to regularly examine and report on the nutritional content of food served in state prisons.

Lovelock Correction Center inmate Robert Leslie Stockmeier petitioned a court for mandamus and injunctive relief to have Green examine the food fed to inmates and file twice-yearly reports to the Board of State Prison Commissioners in accordance with Nevada Revised Statute 209.382(1)(b).

The reports are intended to ensure the food fed to state prisoners is adequately nutritional, but a judge in Carson City denied Stockmeier's petition.

In his complaint, Stockmeier said Green never examined the ingredients of the food served, and instead relied on a report from a dietician who examined only a menu of food served to inmates.

Stockmeier also accused Green of ignoring a study by a Nevada Department of Corrections dietician, who said the food served was "high in sodium, cholesterol and protein, which could lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes," the decision states.

Responding to Stockmeier's complaint, Green said she "regularly inspected" the food provided to inmates and recently submitted a report with no recommendations to the state's prison commissioners.

Green provided a copy of the cover letter she sent to the acting director of the Department of Corrections but did not include a copy of the actual report for the district court to review, the Nevada Supreme Court found.

Wednesday's ruling notes that the state Supreme Court originally reversed for the pro-se Stockmeier back in March. That decision called for Green to submit the actual reports behind her cover letters, but the 2011 report Green submitted on remand did not sway the court this month.

Writing for a three-judge panel last week, Justice Michael Cherry said the 2011 report "focused mainly on issues regarding medical care and sanitation in Nevada's prisons, rather than the diets served to the inmate population."

"To the extent that inmate diets were discussed, the report indicated that a dietician had reviewed the regular and medical diets provided for inmate consumption at one facility every six months and that the hospital at that facility had met the nutritional needs of prisoner-patients," Cherry added.

Though the district court again denied Stockmeier's petition, the state Supreme Court said Wednesday that Green's report "fell well short" of state requirements by only addressing the food served at one prison, not analyzing the contents and providing no information on how the she conducted the examination.

The panel slammed the lower court for finding that Green need only ensure that prisoners were not malnourished, saying "the record demonstrates Greens' failure to sufficiently examine and report upon the nutritional adequacy of inmate diets."

Nothing in the report that the trial court reviewed addresses the "nutritional adequacy" of the food served to the general population, the court found.

Instead, the report admits that a dietician examined only the menus of food served at the Lovelock facility and never visited the prison, the panel found.

The menus provided no information on the nutritional value of the food served and sometimes did not describe the actual food, according to the ruling.

"For example, every lunch entry on the menu simply describes the lunch offering as 'Sacks,' while certain dinner offerings are identified as 'Chefs Choice,'" Cherry wrote. "Thus, even if this menu-based review had formed a part of Green's examination of inmate diets, such menus could not possibly provide a basis for sufficiently examining their nutritional adequacy."

On remand the trial court must issue a writ of mandamus compelling Green to comply with NRS 209.382(1)(b).

Justices James Hardesty and Michael Douglas concurred.

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