Food Oppression in the Orange County Jails

For almost two years, people incarcerated in Orange County jails have been issued bagged, cold meals every day consisting of slimy bologna, no matter if it’s for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And all too often, it is served on bread that is rotting, moldy and even, at times, infested with bugs. 

Not only are these meals hugely unappetizing, they are also unhealthy because of their extremely high levels of sodium and cholesterol.

A new report, “Cold, Rotting, & Moldy Meals: Food Oppression in the Orange County Jails,” was produced by the Stop the Musick Coalition that investigated the inhumane food situation in the jails overseen by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD). 

Download the report (.pdf)

Coalition members used a Public Records Act request to obtain official documents from the OCSD and they conducted interviews with people who had been incarcerated in the jail system.

The report finds that:

  • The jail kitchens were closed in March 2020, and hot meals still have not been fully reinstated.
  • The jails have been serving cold and frequently moldy or rotting bologna sandwiches for every meal.
  • The meals offer poor nutrition and contain excessive levels of sodium.
  • During this time, OCSD has saved significant funds (almost $1 million in 2020) allocated to the food service budget.
  • During this time, despite an almost-50 percent drop in the jail population, the commissary store has continued to bring in consistently high revenue by selling snack food items that many incarcerated people, if they can afford it, purchase to supplement the bagged meals.

The Stop the Musick Coalition consists of individuals and organizations committed to decarceration in Orange County. The coalition opposes the reopening and expansion of the now empty James A. Musick Facility that would add more than 3,000 jail beds to OC’s current jail capacity and cost more than $280 million in state and county funds. 

Members of the coalition that contributed to this jails food report include the ACLU SoCal, CLUE: Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Housing is a Human Right OC, Orange County Rapid Response Network, Transforming Justice OC, and Underground Grit.