An Inmate Claims They Weren’t Offered a Meal - How to Prove Them Wrong

If an inmate were to claim they weren’t offered a meal, do you have the documentation to prove otherwise? This blog walks through how tracking inmate meals with GUARDIAN RFID’s Meal module will save your agency time, money, and most importantly, false claims.
Kenzie Koch
Kenzie Koch
Greg "OG" Piper | Director of Academy/Training
Chris Riedmueller | Product Trainer

The clock is ticking down to chow time. You know the drill. As you start to make your way toward the housing unit you need to dispense meals to, you realize it’s almost time to do a security check. You think, “I’m about to feed my inmates, do I still need to do a security check?” The answer to this is always “Yes.” If you were to reframe the question to, “Can documenting the well-being of the inmates take a break?”, you’d quickly realize that you shouldn’t skip a security check just because another task item is approaching. Although it’s another to-do on your plate, doing a check gives you the opportunity to politely wake up the inmates and let them know food is on the way, which may even speed up the feeding process. Now that you’ve completed your security check and the inmates are starting to line up, it’s time to pass out trays. Let’s dive into some options for logging in the event an inmate were to claim they didn’t receive one of these meals. 

First, you want to verify how many trays should go into a pod. You start by scanning the hard tag located outside the door and find the total number of inmates currently assigned inside the pod and who is currently assigned as out-of-cell. The total number on your screen gives you an idea of how many trays you should be bringing in the pod with you. Using SPARTAN’s Meal module makes it simple to keep track of who is exactly receiving what. Once you’re ready to start physically handing off trays, you select the green “Accepted” column and scan each individual inmate ID card or wristband (that displays the specific inmate’s credentials) of any inmate who accepts their tray. Exactly like the “Accepted” column, you can do these same steps in the “Declined” column for any inmates that decline their meals. This can be completed by simply selecting the red “Declined” column and scanning the inmate ID card or wristband of the inmates who are declining their trays. 

Using the Meal module makes it easy to avoid duplicating trays because once you’ve recorded that an inmate has accepted or declined their meal, a notification will appear on your SPARTAN letting you know you’ve already offered this inmate a meal if they were to try to get another tray. If your facility doesn’t use ID cards or wristbands, there’s another simple solution to logging which inmates accepted or declined their meals. You can go to the Offered column and manually swipe left (decline) or right (accepted) once the inmate has been offered their meal. Once the officer completes offering all inmate meals, they should select the Save button and notice the Meals module will then close and the Cloud icon on the bottom left will turn green, then back to white, signifying all logged information was successfully uploaded to the Cloud.   

What’s the worst-case scenario?

Of course, there will be some staff members that say they have a strong enough memory to make their own “Mental Meal Module” and can track everything they remember on pen and paper. Sure, that could work to some extent. However, it’s difficult to argue that electronic logs capture more accurate, detailed data than manual logs. One can assume that an officer can remember the inmate name, date, time, and location of a meal pass, but it’s also fair to assume that the same officer can be interrupted by distractions, leaving the manual log susceptible to error. Even if the distracted officer claims they can still provide accurate information in the manual log, that information can be illegible, backdated, or falsely edited after the initial documentation. So, let’s assume the worst-case scenario. What happens when an inmate claims they weren’t offered a meal and the officer who uses their own “Mental Meal Module” can’t find the documentation proving that the inmate was offered a meal? Now, the inmate is threatening to sue the agency for cruel and unusual punishment and all the officer can think about is causing the agency to face litigation.

This is completely preventable. 

If the officer were to have used their SPARTAN’s Meal module while offering meals and properly document if the inmate accepted or declined, the inmate's claim of not being offered a meal could easily be proven to be true or false. The Meal module contains all the information that is documented and of course, the more detail that can be included, the more defensible the data is. Collecting information such as the inmate's name, date, time, location, officer number, and even photo evidence of the meal pass are all factors that drastically increase indisputability against any inmate meal-related complaint. Although photo evidence is not necessary for every single meal pass ever recorded, it’s a best practice to use when officers need to hand out trays with religious restrictions, such as Low Sodium, Vegetarian, Kosher, or Halal meals, or if medical staff request a record of meal documentation in the case they need to know what exact food or how much food was consumed by an inmate. Documenting specific meal restrictions or medical requests adds more defensibility to an inmate claiming they weren’t served the correct meal.   

With the SPARTAN, we’re able to scan inmates as they receive their meal. Once in a while, you’ll find that a tray or two wasn’t claimed by anyone. We can easily tell who is missing a tray and then we can go physically find the inmate and see why they didn’t get a tray. Or conversely, inmates sometimes try to get in line twice for a second meal and the SPARTAN gives us a notification that it’s a duplicate.
Travis Lindstrom
Jail Sergeant | Sherburne County, Minnesota

Regardless of how defensible the data you’re collecting is, there will still be inmates who complain and say they weren’t offered the correct type of meal or a meal at all. (Hint: this is where it gets fun!) When a meal complaint takes place, staff will only need a few minutes and a couple of clicks of a button to locate the reports that prove that the inmate in question was indeed offered a meal and whether they accepted or declined it. This is why GUARDIAN RFID preaches documentation. Having specific records (such as “accepted” or “declined”) logged creates the utmost defensibility as it proves that an officer accurately recorded whether the inmate accepted or refused the tray in question. Further, defensibility can be increased by properly using inmate identification, such as wristbands or ID cards, as it ensures that all shifts are enforcing an ID policy verifying that all inmates are encountered during meal times. Any time an officer scans an inmate ID with their own unique identifier, it proves that there was verifiable contact made between the said inmate and officer.

Referencing the Collected Data Can Save Time and Money

All the reporting can be located by logging into your facility’s OnDemand account. Your activity feed will show the number of inmates who accepted and declined their meals out of the total number of inmates in the specific location you’re viewing. For example, you could see that 30/35 accepted meals and 5/35 declined meals. When trying to pinpoint precise information, the various filter options available while pulling a report are very useful. Officers don‘t have the time to sort through irrelevant data, which is why Meal modules were built to eliminate white noise and detect exactly what is being searched for.  Within a matter of moments, the inmate’s claim is disputed and the officers can get back on task. The ease and speed of finding and pulling the reports further prove how electronic logging is more efficient than manual logging.

Not only are hours upon hours saved with SPARTAN’s Meal module, but so is money. Think about it, fewer meals made = less money spent. Providing the kitchen staff with a number of meals to make ahead of time helps eliminate having extra trays. After scanning a hard tag, a list of inmates who are assigned to that location should appear on the screen and you can gather a headcount number. One popular practice that many facilities use is to make additional trays in case of new intakes or other unexpected situations where meals are needed. Why? Because one of the largest areas for inmates complaints, grievances, lawsuits, and riots all come back to the root of food service. 

There are some scenarios where officers can be proactive about letting the kitchen know how many trays to make by considering the population that typically accepts and declines their meals from the total headcount number they’ve collected. For example, suppose meal reports have historically shown that 85% of the inmate population accepts meals for breakfast and 15% decline. In that case, the officer has the option to apply these percentages to the overall number they provide the kitchen staff. So, if an officer knows that 15% of a specific unit usually declines meals, that officer can choose to let the kitchen staff know to reduce their production by around 5%, as the other 5-10% should be used for a buffer. Depending on the size of the facility, 5% may be a very small or very large number. However big or small, that is 5% of staff time and energy saved, funds allocated towards food not spent, and the food not going to waste.

There’s no argument that tracking inmate meals will inevitably save your agency energy, time, money, and possible litigation. With the accurate documentation inside of GUARDIAN RFID’s Meal module, an officer can easily and quickly prove if an inmate’s claim of not being offered a meal is true or false. If you’re interested in learning more about the Meal module or have questions on if it would be an ideal feature for your facility, please reach out to our C.O.R.E. team who’d be happy to answer any questions. GUARDIAN RFID’s ultimate goal is to get your team home safe, and making sure your team can save their sanity is the first step.