Living with peanut allergy in jail/how to stay safe


We have had some inquiries on how to address living with peanut allergy while in jail. Your input and experiences are needed and welcomed.

Thanks in advance for any information and help you can give.

On May 26, 2005

Chris, I wonder if this stems from the CSI Miami episode posted about under Media where the death row inmate orders a pb&j sandwich for his last meal, so he can, in effect, kill himself, rather than have the State kill him.

It's not really an unusual question but I can see why people would find it difficult to post it here.

Perhaps it would be helpful if someone could find out where you find inmates' rights. They must be documented somewhere.


Best wishes! [img][/img]

On May 26, 2005

Hmmmmm, well this ought to be interesting indeed [img][/img]

On May 26, 2005

Well, Chris, I highly doubt you're going to get any posts re personal situations in this thread now (and perhaps never would have).

However, if I can figure out how to find out what inmates' rights are in Canada, I'll try to do some research on the subject. I'm simply not clear where to start.

I'll see what I can find tomorrow.

Best wishes! [img][/img]

On May 26, 2005

This information is American, and an article from this month, so current. Now, in reading the article, it would appear that although inmates are covered under the ADA (or are supposed to be), the issues addressed in this article are ones of obvious physical disability, and not specific in regard to PA or a hidden disability such as PA:-

Court to Review Rights of Disabled Inmates By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer Mon May 16, 6:22 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide if states and counties can be sued for not accommodating disabled prisoners, a big-money question for governments already strapped for cash.

The court already has held that people in state prisons are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Now the justices will consider whether prisoners can sue for damages under the ADA, a law meant to ensure equal treatment for the disabled in many areas of life.

Supporters of the law contend that the threat of damages is needed to force states and local governments to comply.

"There's nothing like damages for getting people's attention," said Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University civil rights law professor who helped draft the law.

About 1.3 million people are held in state prisons and more than 700,000 are in local jails, but it's uncertain how many are disabled. Should the court side with inmates, there could be major implications for states because of the costs of retrofitting old prisons to accommodate people with disabilities.

States have complained that the law has led to unreasonable inmate demands.

Justices will consider the plight of Tony Goodman, a paraplegic who claims he has been held for more than 23 hours a day in a cell so narrow he cannot turn his wheelchair. The Bush administration filed an appeal on his behalf.

Goodman, who was injured in a car accident, is serving time for aggravated assault and a cocaine conviction. He claims that because the prison in Reidsville, Ga., is not equipped for people in wheelchairs, he cannot go to the bathroom or bathe without help, and does not have access to counseling, classes and religious services. He has sometimes been forced to sit in his own waste, according to Goodman's lawsuit.

Paul Clement, the Bush administration's lead Supreme Court lawyer, told justices in a filing that ADA's protections address "the inhumane, degrading, and health-endangering conditions of daily living for inmates."

Lawyers for the state of Georgia questioned whether Goodman is as injured as he claims. "Mr. Goodman shot at his girlfriend and then removed himself from the wheelchair and beat her," the attorneys told the court in a filing.

States repeatedly have clashed with the federal government over their liability under the 1990 disabilities law. They claim immunity from lawsuits because the Constitution says a state government cannot be sued in federal court without its consent.

Justices have sharply disagreed on when states are immune.

Last May, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states can be sued over inaccessible courthouses. Among the dissenters was Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who has championed states rights.

"The ADA has become the battleground for the Rehnquist court's legacy in terms of federalism," said Peter Blanck, a University of Iowa law professor specializing in the disabilities law.

The 2004 case involved a court reporter who uses a wheelchair and a paraplegic man who crawled up the steps of a small-town courthouse because there was no elevator for his wheelchair.

Blanck said the case addressing the rights of convicted criminals may be tougher for the court when it hears arguments next fall.

"It's not a very sympathetic population," he said.

The cases are United States v. Georgia, 04-1203, and Goodman v. Georgia, 04-1236.


Best wishes! [img][/img]

On May 27, 2005

Hi Chris

Correctional Services Canada has a very clear policy on therapeutic diets:


7.5 Special Considerations

Allergy diets should only be prescribed as a result of allergy testing or if the inmate can provide written confirmation by a physician of previous testing which had led to the diagnosis of a food allergy. Particular attention should be paid to nut, bean and fish/seafood allergies. As these allergies tend to be very severe to life threatening, they will be ordered upon request.

This is also in the policy:

The Food Services staff shall document any observations of inmates failing to adhere to their therapeutic diet.

Inmates who accumulate documentation outlining 3 different incidents in which they failed to adhere to their therapeutic diet within a thirty- (30) day period will be considered for cancellation of their diet. The Chief Food Services shall initiate cancellation of a therapeutic diet in consultation with Health Services, including the institutional/regional dietitian. Health Services shall be responsible for cancelling the diet.

Inmates whose diet cannot be cancelled due to medical reasons, e.g. inmates with diabetes, should be sent to the Health Centre for further counselling.

Correctional Services Canada runs all federal prisons. Individual detention centres and jails are run at the provinical level, I think, so you would have to check the policy of the ministry. I was not able to find a policy online for the ministry of correctional services here in Ontario.

Hope this helps


On May 27, 2005

Deb O., great stuff! This thread needed someone who is computer savvy and could do the search *properly*. All I found last night was The Criminal Code of Canada, which doesn't deal with inmates' rights.

Best wishes! [img][/img]

On May 27, 2005

Well, Cindy, I think it helps to work for the government so I know a lot of the departments.

That's why I am not much help at the provincial or municipal level, though!

On May 27, 2005


Originally posted by csc: [b]Well, Chris, I highly doubt you're going to get any posts re personal situations in this thread now (and perhaps never would have).



Just checking--did you have a problem with what I said above?

On May 29, 2005

Okay, was able to find this out. If you are in a "detention center" in Ontario which is where you do your time if you are sentenced to 2 years less a day (anything more than 2 years and it's considered "pen" time - the Federal government); you are given three meals a day and a bed-time snack, which, out of the four meals, one of them is bound to include pb (and certainly "may contains" etc.).

I would assume it would be the responsibility of the inmate, as outlined by what Deb O. posted above, to let the correction officials know that you are PA. However, having said that, I'm not clear if you would want to tell even your cell mate(s) if you were.

Even though a "detention center" is where you do your time if you get 2 years less a day, the "detention center" is also where everyone is held until trial awaiting sentencing to say penitentiary time (more than 2 years). So, while a murderer, rapist, whatever would warrant more than two years in jail is awaiting sentencing, they are also sitting with you in a "detention center", in Ontario.

So, I'm not clear if I'd want another prisoner to know that I was PA. Then, if you had concerns about residue, airborne reactions, etc., I'm not clear if you could ask to be transferred to spend your time on the sick ward where you would be more closely monitored and perhaps more attention would be paid to your diet.

To me, that's why the episode of CSI Miami was so unbelievable. I don't believe a man, who died very quickly of anaphylaxis, after eating the pb sandwich, could have sat on death row for 5 years without correction officials not knowing about his PA.

The other concern would be that you're probably NOT allowed to carry your Epi-pen. Most everyone here watches crime dramas and sees what prisoners use to model different deadly instruments out of (i.e., forks, etc.); so allowing someone to carry an Epi-pen is essentially allowing them to carry a murder weapon.

The only other thing I can think of, although it's certainly not a psychiatric disability, is could a PA person asked to be transferred to a psychiatric facility.

No, it's something I hope I don't have to face in this life-time with my guy, but I also honestly can't see "peanut free" prisons in the near future; although here, in Ontario, detention centers and penitentiaries are "smoke free", so matter it is simply a matter of time, I don't know.

Strange information I can come across, I know. [img][/img]

Best wishes! [img][/img]

On Jun 4, 2005

I was able to find this out about detention centers in Ontario. Detention centers are where time is served if you get a sentence of 2 years less a day (not penitentary time) and also where anyone awaiting trial stays until they are sentenced.

All diets are accommodated. Vegan, vegetarian, diabetic, Muslim, other religious diets, etc.

Apparently, the other inmates are respectful of the other people's diets and say in the cases of diabetics, who apparently get more food than the other inmates, they aren't bothered to hand over their extra food.

As Deb O.'s post provided, one would need confirmation that one was PA, but then once that was confirmed, a PA safe diet could be accommodated.

As far as telling other inmates or how to stay safe? That's kinda hard to say because you are in a confined situation with murderers, rapists, and other non-law-abiding citizens. So, would you want someone to know that you were PA if that could be used against you?

I imagine if a threat was made to you with regard to your allergy and you reported it, you could probably be put on either the health unit or into protective custody.

But here, in Ontario at least, all diets (religious, vegetarian, etc.) are accommodated.

Chris, hope this helps. [img][/img]

Best wishes! [img][/img]

On Jun 4, 2005

Oh, and the Epi-pen. Obviously, one wouldn't be able to carry it on their own person, but it would be in the guard's station, similar to I guess, situations where Epi-pens are locked in the nurse's office in school situations where children are not allowed to carry their Epi-pens.

Best wishes! [img][/img]

On Jun 4, 2005

Interesting. I wonder how it all really happens, even with rules as to keeping certain diets and such.

From what I hear, there is a general power play which at the most basic level involves taking one's food, or slopping one's leftover and undesired food onto another tray. Or maybe the taking is only for special items one procures, like a candy bar. But let's just say I have a close relative with stories firsthand(but no food allergies).

I do know in one setting, this relative had to eat in all of three minutes and then be done. And there, the time simply would not exist to fight about food or take any from anyone. This was a militarisitc style rehab prison setting.

I mean there are rules and then actual practice situations. One has to wonder. becca

On Jun 4, 2005

becca, I found out the information about one particular detention center in Ontario (I'm not clear how many we have). In this particular one, the inmates ate in their cells rather than in a cafeteria (like you see on TV), so the only other person you would be eating with would be your cell-mate.

Peanut butter, when served, was served in the little sealed containers that you get in restaurants.

And there was food trading going on. If someone didn't want say their pb, they could trade it to someone else for some other food item.

I imagine, although don't know, if someone had PA and was contact/airborne sensitive (don't we all have the potential to be though?) that perhaps they could have a health plan put into place, in America, through the ADA.

I was actually quite surprised to hear that here we accommodated vegan and religious diets. I just sorta thought if you were in jail you had to eat what you were served. Obviously not.

Best wishes! [img][/img]

On Jun 4, 2005

Wow! Another good reason to live in Canada. [img][/img] becca

On Jun 4, 2005

Yes, if you go to jail in Canada, you still have your religious freedom (food wise) or not religious freedom (food wise) (I mean, being a vegetarian does not always have to do with religion, unless one is a Hare Krishna). Rastafarian diets (which I am unclear as to how they are different, except they wash their food after it is served to them apparently), were also accommodated.

I was thinking how this would be accomplished in a large establishment, but I would imagine that the number of people requiring accommodations for any reasons, might be low in comparison to the "general population". I don't know.

Also, interestingly enough, three of our major Ontario detention centers (none in Toronto) are modeled on American prisons and very different control wise than if you're in one that isn't modeled on an American prison.

Yes, another *good* reason to live in Canada, my soul. [img][/img]

Best wishes! [img][/img]

On Nov 22, 2005

Came across this as a local news story:


. . . . .[i]Prosecutors said Contini blamed the destruction on a psychological disability and tried to avoid prison time by claiming that severe food allergies and mental problems would make incarceration untenable.

U.S. District Judge John Coughenour ruled that a prison term was justified.

Hurvitz declined to discuss Contini's psychological disability, but said the U.S. Bureau of Prisons "will receive a lot of medical documentation. ... We'll see what their response is as to whether and where they might be able to accommodate Mr. Contini."[/i]

So I wonder if it means they [b]can't[/b] accommodate his food allergies he gets a "get out of jail free" card???

I recall a brief thought a while ago that it's a good thing my kid's a good kid - I have no idea if they could feed him in juvey!

------------------ Jana