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Punishment & Profit: Food & Commissary

Punishment & Profit

Originally Aired: Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Available for viewing

Overview

People behind bars are six times more likely to experience food poisoning than those on the outside. Rocks, mop strings, maggots and even feces have all been served in prison meals. Prison food service corporations generate $4 billion in annual revenues, and in many cases, make more operating the commissary stores people turn to in lieu of institutional meals. Campaign Director for Uprooted & Rising, Mina Aria, Executive Chef at mission-led restaurant, Down North Pizza, Michael Carter, Deputy Editor of the nonprofit newsroom, The Counter, Joe Fassler and Research Fellow for the Food in Prison Project, Leslie Soble, will discuss the advocacy work being done to end food service atrocities in prisons and jails.

Worth Rises is a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to dismantling the prison industry and ending the exploitation of those it touches. The organization exposes the commercialization of the criminal legal system and advocates and organizes to protect and return the economic resources extracted from affected communities and strip the industry of its power. Through this work, Worth Rises is helping to clear the road toward a safe and just world free of police and prisons. Find out more at worthrises.org.

Credit: Photo provided by guest

Bianca is the Founder and Executive Director of Worth Rises, combining her direct experience with the criminal legal system and expertise in financial and legal services to challenge the prison industry.

Before founding Worth Rises in 2017, Bianca was a legal fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, where she investigated the perverse financial incentives created by correctional funding. Previously, Bianca also worked with various state and local corrections agencies, including New York City, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Most notably, in New York City, she drafted the young adult plan that eliminated solitary confinement for young adults 21 years old and younger—a first in the nation.

Bianca has also consulted to the Association of State Correctional Administrators and worked for the Campaign to End Mass Incarceration at the American Civil Liberties Union. Bianca co-founded College Pathways at Rikers Island, a preparation program for incarcerated students interested in pursuing higher education. 

Before committing her career to the struggle for justice, Bianca worked as a financial analyst at Citigroup and Morgan Stanley. 

Bianca has been honored as a Draper Rickard Kaplan Entrepreneur, Art for Justice Fellow, TED Fellow, Equal Justice Works Fellow, Harvard University Presidential Public Service Fellow, Ford Foundation Public Interest Fellow, Paul & Daisy Soros New American Fellow, and an Education Pioneers Analyst Fellow. Bianca holds a B.A. from Columbia University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Mina Aria

Credit: Photo provided by guest.

Mina Aria is based in St. Louis and is the Campaign Director for Uprooted & Rising, a movement committed to ending higher education’s support for Big Food and white supremacy in the food system and directing the energy of our generation towards food sovereignty. They have organized for many years against state and interpersonal violence through their work in the Palestine liberation, reproductive justice, and prison abolition movements. Mina currently serves on the board for the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. Mina is committed to building power between and across movements.

Michael Carter

Credit: Photo provided by guest.

Michael Carter is the Executive Chef at Down North Pizza, a mission-led for-profit restaurant providing excellent food and quality customer service to North Philadelphia. Down North Pizza exclusively employs formerly incarcerated individuals while providing culinary career opportunities at a fair wage and equitable workplace.

Joe Fassler

Credit: Photo provided by guest.

Joe Fassler is deputy editor of The Counter, a nonprofit newsroom covering the forces that shape American food and eating. His work has been published in The Best American Food WritingThe GuardianLongreads and many other publications.

Leslie Soble

Credit: Photo provided.

Leslie Soble is a research fellow for the Food in Prison Project and the lead author of Impact Justice’s recent report, Eating Behind Bars: Ending the Hidden Punishment of Food in Prison. An ethnographer and folklorist, Leslie holds an MA in cultural sustainability with a focus on the intersection of foodways, narrative theory and social practice art.

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