The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has so few safeguards against serving substandard food to inmates that it once purchased whole cow hearts disguised as ground beef, the Justice Department’s Inspector General said Tuesday.
In a new report, Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) does not have procedures in place to ensure “its food supply is safe and meets contractual requirements.”
“The BOP does minimal and inconsistent quality assurance inspections of food items and instead relies almost exclusively on vendors’ claims regarding the composition, quality, freshness and weight of their products,” Mr. Horowitz wrote.
The report details a slew of criminal cases against food suppliers who allegedly hoodwinked the BOP.
Last year, two men in Texas were arrested and accused of selling 30,000 pounds of bad ground beef to a federal prison in Atlanta and 10,000 pounds of the meat to a prison in West Virginia. The men were sentenced to 46 months and 42 months in prison, respectively, for their role in the scheme.
Criminal charges were filed in South Carolina against another company that allegedly laced spices such as cinnamon, pepper, garlic powder and others with filler to underbid their competitors. The spices were delivered to a South Carolina federal prison.
Although the criminal charges were ultimately dropped, the company’s owner paid a fine and performed community service.
The prison food industry appears to be a lucrative one for suppliers, causing them to adulterate their products to make even more money, Mr. Horowitz concluded.
In fiscal year 2019, the BOP allocated 5.7 percent, or roughly $401 million of its budget to feed the 180,000 inmates in 122 institutions.
But Mr. Horowitz said the BOP isn’t always checking to see what it is getting for its money.
“BOP does not always properly document or communicate food vendor quality issues,” he wrote. “In several investigations, we found that a number of BOP institutions were aware that a particular vendor was providing substandard food, but the information was not appropriately documented.”
Mr. Horowitz recommended the BOP develop a quality assurance plan, conduct laboratory testing of food products to ensure they meet USDA standards, and better document substandard food claims.
The report is the latest black eye for the BOP, which has been reeling since last year’s death of billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein while in custody.
Attorney General William Barr has shaken up the agency in the aftermath, last week naming Michael Carvajal as its new director.
Epstein killed himself in August while in custody in a Manhattan jail cell. He was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges involving girls as young as 14.
Mr. Horowitz and the Justice Department still probing the circumstances behind Epstein’s death.
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