Terrence Prude alleged that staff of the Milwaukee County Jail had subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment because they fed him nothing but nutriloaf, which Judge Posner of the 7th Circuit described as ‘a bad-tasting food given to prisoners as a form of punishment’, for periods of seven to ten days at a time. Prude alleged that this steady diet caused vomiting, stomach pains, constipation, ‘alarming’ weight loss and possibly an anal fissure (‘which is no fun at all’, in the words of the learned judge).
Summary judgment was initially granted in favour of the defendants, but Judge Posner thought this was wrong: their response to the suit was ‘contumacious’ in that they ignored the self-represented Prude’s discovery demands and the court’s order to comply with them. The defendants’ evidence on summary judgment was a ‘preposterous’ hearsay assertion that nutriloaf ‘has been determined to be a nutritious substance for regular meals’. The fact that Prude had sued prison staff who had not actually been indifferent to his health was not fatal to his appeal; at least some of them were aware of the dire effects of nutriloaf and did nothing to help. The court below was correct, however, to strike Prude’s claim that it was cruel to offer him a sandwich (‘and not of nutriloaf, either’) as a bribe to spy on other prisoners; Prude had rejected the offer, but not getting the sandwich made him no worse off than he would have been otherwise. The defendants were ordered to show cause why they should not be sanctioned for their flouting of the lower court’s orders; if they ignored this order, ‘they will find themselves in deep trouble’.
Prude v Clarke (7th Cir, 27 March 2012)