Utah prisoners pile on weight at 3,000 calories a day

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    This article is in the Nov. 15 edition of The Daily Universe

    Associated Press

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The state is feeding prisoners a rich diet that leaves men at the Utah State Prison an extra 34 pounds heavier, on average, after a year behind bars. Women prisoners are gaining about 17 pounds.

    By one doctor’s estimate, the Utah Department of Corrections spends as much as $2 million a year on food inmates don’t need, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday.

    While the Food and Drug Administration recommends 2,000-calorie diets for people with active lifestyles, Utah prisoners, both men and women, are fed a 3,000-calorie diet, said Kennon Tubbs, a prison physician.

    By and large, prisoners aren’t working off the extra calories. One recent survey revealed that fewer than 5 percent of women at the prison regularly work out.

    The result is that many inmates who are healthy when first incarcerated later develop problems such as hypertension and high cholesterol, Tubbs said.

    In 2004, the Utah Department of Corrections spent more than $80,000 on medications such as Glipizide, Glucophage, Protonix and Enalapril _ all used to treat obesity. It spent an additional $34,105 on cholesterol-lowering agent Lovastatin.

    Tubbs said he has pitched to prison administrators a comprehensive health program that would include nutritional education and care for the clinically obese. At the heart of the program would be a 1,600-calorie diet and mandatory exercise.

    Warden Clint Friel said taking away inmates’ sweets could incite a riot.

    “You get one riot, you’re into it millions and millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re here to manage the unmanageable.”

    Friel said even if the prison were to slim down food portions, inmates still could satisfy a craze for junk food at the commissary.

    “I don’t want to use food as a form of punishment,” Friel said. “Their punishment is a lack of freedom, the separation from society. But they still have their constitutional rights.”

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