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Nevada Prisons Persist in Not Serving Healthy Food

by Ed Lyon

Previously, Nevada state prisoner Robert Leslie Stockmeier won a case against the prison system over claims involving dietary issues in Stockmeier v. Green, 340 P.3d 583 (Nev. 2014).

The Nevada Supreme Court found the state’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and staff were not examining actual meals for nutritional purposes; that a dietician’s review of the prison menu without examining the meals was “too vague to support any analysis of nutritional adequacy”; there were no standards as to what determined “nutritional adequacy” or how it was being met beyond merely avoiding malnourishment; there was no review of what foods were actually being served; and there were no reviews of medically-prescribed and religious diets, or whether prisoners’ age, gender or activity levels were taken into account.

At that time, the Court held Stockmeier was entitled to the grant of a writ of mandamus to compel the CMO to periodically examine and report semi-annually to the Board of State Prison Commissioners Board regarding the nutritional adequacy of prison meals.

Specifically, the Supreme Court pointed out that NRS 209.382(1) requires that each prisoner receive a “healthful diet.” Section (1)(b) requires the CMO to “periodically examine” and report to the board regarding the “nutritional adequacy of the diet of incarcerated offenders taking into account the religious or medical dietary needs of an offender and the adjustment of dietary allowances for age, sex, and level of activity.”

Four years after the Court’s ruling, Stockmeier contended the CMO still was not in compliance with NRS 209.382. He sought and was granted a writ of mandamus in a district court to compel compliance with the Supreme Court’s order regarding the CMO’s reporting requirements.

The CMO and prison staff remained noncompliant despite the writ of mandamus, so Stockmeier filed a motion to compel in the district court, which was denied. He then appealed to the state Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court’s denial.

The Supreme Court found the CMO still deficient in that his reports “failed to comply with NRS 209.382(1)(b) because the reporting fails to show that it applied the standards asserted as the basis for the determination of nutritional adequacy.”

One of those deficiencies was excessive levels of “fat and sodium that considerably exceed the RDA/DRI levels” in prison meals. Taking the CMO’s assertion that “[s]odium is a necessary nutrient: thus, higher levels of sodium do not render the diet inadequate or insufficient” to an absurd level, the Court reasoned it could be said “the standard permits an unlimited quantity of sodium,” adding, “It is plain that a nutritionally adequate diet is not simply one that has some quantity of necessary macronutrients, as many nutrients that are necessary in small quantities are dangerous in large quantities.”

After overruling the CMO’s arguments, the Supreme Court concluded he had “failed to comply with NRS 209.382(l)(b)’s reporting requirements,” and remanded the case for further proceedings. See: Stockmeier v. Green, 422 P.3d 1233 (Nev. 2018); 2018 Nev. Unpub. LEXIS 707. 


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Related legal case

Stockmeier v. Green