El Paso County Jail, Colorado Springs, Colorado
November 21, 2016
Nine prisoners engaged in a five hour long standoff with guards after the Colorado jail switched it’s food provider to Trinity Food Services, which prisoners complained was giving inadequate portions.
During the standoff, prisoners poured soap on the floor in an attempt to make guards slip, used mattresses as shields, and attacked riot teams after they were sent in to quell the uprising.
All nine of those prisoners now face felony charges for inciting a riot.
The uprising comes months after the jail food provider switched from Aramark Correctional Services to Trinity Services Group.
According to The Colorado Springs Independent, many prisoners at El Paso Couty Jail reported losing as much as 30 pounds in a matter of months upon entering the facility.
One prisoner said in a statement, “Meals are a joke,the portions are insufficient. Can someone please see that we get [fed] properly? We still are human beings, grown adults at that.”
Prisoners report that small servings and watered-down food have forced them to buy snacks at inflated prices from the commissary store at the facility — also run by Trinity.
Others have reported that the facility has refused to provide meals based on religious diets or other diet restrictions. One Muslim prisoner filed a complaint in December threatening to sue over not being given a halal diet from late September to early November. Another prisoner reported being refused a gluten-free diet for a month after entering the facility. Eating foods with gluten, she stated, caused internal bleeding, for which she says she was not given any medical treatment.
Prisoners report filing numerous complaints with the facility regarding food portions, and even guards at the facility have remarked that portion sizes are too small. According to emails obtained by the The Colorado Springs Independent through a Colorado Open Records Act request, a lieutenant notified a commander that a sack lunch delivered to an inmate in September contained “a small little roll and four carrots. That’s it!”
In September and October, deputies cautioned their superiors that inmates’ frustration over food was giving rise to a “sketchy” atmosphere for jail staff and that poor supervision of prison workers in the kitchen led to theft of several items that could be crafted into weapons, posing “huge security risks.”
Those warnings may have been predictive, as the uprising which broke out at the facility on November 19 seems to has been a direct response to the inadequate food service. It was a situation that “created grave danger for staff” and required a special response team to quell the violence, according to an arrest affidavit.
In the aftermath, the facility has refused to release footage of the incident, stating that “disclosure would be contrary to the public interest and the public release of the record would impact the security procedures and responses at CJC.”
This is not the first time the food service provider has come under attack. Earlier in 2019, at a New Mexico women’s facility, prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest Trinity Food Services stating, “Inmates are on a hunger strike in protest against food contractor Trinity Food Services for violating portion servings, religious food, and food making people sick!”
Additionally, in March 2016, around 1,200 prisoners at Kinross Correctional Facility in Michigan refused to eat in protest of poor food quality by Trinity, especially watered down or “soupy” food. The food strike even spread to a second facility in Kincheloe, Michigan, where more than 800 prisoners participated.
“El Paso County inmates say new jail contractor serves inadequate food“, Colorado Springs Independent, February 1, 2017.
“Food riot lands nine El Paso County jail inmates in the soup“, The Gazette, December 3, 2016.
“Attempted riot over food at El Paso County Jail preceded by rise in complaints, warnings from deputies“, The Gazette, March 7, 2017.
Article published 10/29/2019
Header photo source: Colorado Springs Independent