According to the Mississippi Food Network, one in four Mississippians do not have enough to eat: many therefore use food pantries. Prisoners, however, have no access to these. And according to Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU National Prison Project,
“[Many Mississippi prisoners are] hungry and don’t get adequate food.” Widespread weight loss averaging 20 pounds or more has been recorded at one Mississippi prison by medical experts hired by the ACLU.
Prisoners are allowed to supplement their food from the prison commissary, but the Clarion-Ledger has found that prohibitively high prices are often charged:
“Charging more than four times the retail price for everything from shampoo to snacks is perfectly legal behind Mississippi prison walls.”
Commissary prices of many cereals, snacks, batteries and soap are more than four times higher than that of discount stores in the Jackson area. Pens and over-the-counter medicines cost even more.
This places a huge strain on prisoners’ families, who may already be struggling financially because their main breadwinner is incarcerated, and so have little or no money left to supplement prisoners’ inadequate diet. And, sadly, some inmates have no contact with anyone outside the prison gates, so cannot access even the inflated prices of the commissary.
For Willie Manning this situation exacerbates his already unimaginably challenging predicament. We should spare him a thought during the excesses of the holiday season.