Records request made for food distribution logs at Cummins Unit


"It's hard for grown men to go 13 hours without food"

Cummins Unit State Prison lunch tray. Photo used with permission.

Cummins Unit State Prison lunch tray. Photo used with permission.

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — An inmate’s mom at the Cummins Unit has asked for the prison’s approved menu, or meal logs, from April 1, 2020, through May 7, 2020.

Arkansas resident LaDeana Biddle made the request under the Arkansas Freedom of Information and Public Records Act § 25-19-101 (FOIA) on May 7. The Arkansas Department of Corrections has three days to respond.

Biddle filed the FOIA for a couple of reasons: food quality, and because inmates are not being fed at the proper times.

“After hearing form multiple families, the food is not up to par nutritionally,” said Biddle, “and it’s important for inmates to have the recommended calories made by the Criminal Detention Facility Standards (CDFS) … especially during this pandemic.”

“My son had breakfast at 4:30 a.m. and at 5 p.m. he was still waiting for lunch, he told his dad this,” said Biddle.

Other families of inmates have made similar complaints on social media:

“When I talked to my kid last night at 8:30 p.m. he still had not been fed.”

“My dad hasn’t eaten since 3 this morning,” wrote another person — that had been a 16 hour gap between meals.

“My kid and his barracks haven not been fed lunch and it’s 4:30 p.m. … had breakfast at 4 a.m.,” wrote another inmate’s family member.

The Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, has jail standards for each state to follow. In Arkansas, it is a 28-page Criminal Detention Facility Standards document. Standards include conduct for personnel, disciplinary procedures, security, medical, dental and mental health care services, to name a few. The section Biddle refers to in her FOIA request is page 14, “food service.” It’s posted below.

CDFS 2014, Chapter XI Food Service:

  • Inmates shall be offered three meals daily, two of which should be hot meals. The menus for these meals will be reviewed once or more annually by a Registered or Certified Dietician using both the recommended dietary allowances and the basic four food groups for guidance. The minimum daily calorie level offered for sedentary inmates shall be 2300 calories, and the minimum calories for active inmates shall be 2700 calories. Meals should be served at specific planned times, with a designated person responsible for service. Food should be served promptly after it is prepared to insure that hot food is served hot and cold food is served cold. Coffee, tea or milk or a suitable substitute as well as the appropriate condiments will be served with each meal.
  • Records of the food actually served in the Criminal Detention Facility should be preserved for at least twelve months, and shall be checked by a Registered or Certified Dietician once or more annually to insure that the food actually served makes the calories and other nutrients (protein, iron, vitamins A and C) available to inmates.
  • When provided, kitchen facilities and/or any other entity providing food service to the facility shall conform to the Arkansas Department of Health rules and regulations pertaining to food service establishments. Food handlers must meet current requirements of the Arkansas Department of Health.
  • Special or therapeutic diets as recommended by the Facility’s Health Authority shall be provided for inmates. Special diets are provided for inmates whose religious beliefs require the adherence to religious dietary laws.
  • Food may be fed to inmates in their cells, day room, corridors, or in a dining room, but wherever served, the area shall be cleaned immediately afterwards and trash removed to an outside dumpster or a garbage collection area.
  • Twenty-four Hour/Overnight Facilities are exempt from sections 11-1001, 11-1002 and 11-1003, but they shall provide three meals at regular intervals and maintain records of the foods actually served for at least 12 months.
  • Records of food service related inspections from any and all city, state, or federal agencies shall be kept for two years.
  • The Chief Executive shall not permit any food to be brought into the Facility except that which is furnished by the Facility, or purchased through the canteen. Only the Chief Executive can make an exception to this rule and he shall exercise rigid controls to insure that the Facility does not become infested or unsanitary.

The Cummins Correctional Unit in Grady, Arkansas

Cummins Unit State Prison
Cummins Unit State Prison

The average daily population at Cummins Unit was 1,832, according to a 2018 ADC annual report.

As of Friday, 896 inmates and 60 staff members were infected with the virus, Arkansas Department of Health Director Dr. Nate Smith said at the COVID-19 daily briefing. There are six inmate deaths, however only five have been listed as COVID-19 related, one death is being autopsied. The Arkansas State Crime Lab told KNWA/FOX24 it could be June before the cause of death is determined.

Meanwhile, an inmate’s wife told her another 27 men at the modular unit at Cummins have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon. “My husband and others were moved from that barrack,” Kaili Diaz said.

Also, as of Friday afternoon, Arkansas’ Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Forrest City Low, had 243 inmates listed as COVID-19 positive, an increase of 74 from the day before, according to the Bureau of Prisons’ website.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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