Boiled eggs end inmate food strike in Connell

Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell
Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell File

A food strike at Connell’s Coyote Ridge Corrections Center has ended after the prison agreed to add a hard-boiled egg to breakfasts as well as other compromises.

At its peak, nearly 1,700 of the 2,065 prisoners housed at the state prison in Franklin County declined prison-served meals because they had complaints about food quality and other jail conditions.

The food strike was not a hunger strike. Prisoners had access to buy food through the prison commissary.

There were several issues, but the primary complaints centered on the prison practice of handing out pre-packaged “breakfast boats” with the evening meal to hold them over to the following day’s lunch.

The breakfast boat contains a muffin, breakfast bar, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a packet of oatmeal or cereal and packet of dried milk.

‘Breakfast boats’ criticized

The prison is replacing the muffin with hard-boiled eggs to improve the protein content, said Karen Takacs, spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Corrections.

As of last week, 96 percent of inmates were eating the prison-supplied meals, said Takacs.

In addition to compromising on the breakfasts, the prison agreed to increase the number of inmate-purchased TVs in multiperson cells and to re-pad benches in an exercise area.

The prison agreed to increase the number of inmate-purchased TVs in multi-person cells and to repad benches in an exercise area at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell. File Tri-City Herald

The compromise followed several meetings between Rob Herzog, assistant secretary of prisons, and prisoner representatives.

Gail Eddy, a Tacoma-area resident whose boyfriend is serving a three-year sentence for a drug-related conviction, confirmed to the Herald the food strike is over.

Prison advocates have complained about the nutritional value of prison-prepared meals since about 2014, when the state prison system switched from preparing on-site meals with ingredients grown at the prison to serving meals packaged at prison-owned industrial kitchens.

Last spring, prisoners at the walla Walla State Penitentiary staged a similar strike.

Prison Voice Washington, which advocates for the 18,000 prisoners in state custody, released a report in 2016 that called the current system of feeding prisoners unhealthy and a deterrent to the system’s rehabilitation mission.

Correcting Food Policy in Washington Prisons is available for review at prisonvoicewa.org.

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.