International Journal of Drug Policy - 2014

Volume 25 Issue 3 May 2014

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564 A.B. Smoyer, K.M. Blankenship / International Journal of Drug Policy 25 (2014) 562–568 (listening, reading and memo writing, including matrix develop- ment); generating initial codes; applying, editing and consolidating codes; organizing and reviewing themes to generate findings (Braun & Clarke, 2006; Miles & Huberman, 1994; Patton, 2002). Findings As described in these participants' narratives, prison food systems contributed to the construction of boundaries that dis- tinguished the prison place from places and life outside the institution's walls. Participants also described boundaries within the prison that resulted in a patchwork of interior places, each with their own unique structure, meaning, and food system. These places, constructed by physical location, movement, and power, or lack thereof, included various micro-geographies that further defined women's individual prison experience. The boundaries that separated these places were not fixed: Women shifted and dimin- ished internal and external borders by resisting food policies and reproducing their outside lives inside. Inside/outside boundary Participants' narratives constructed a boundary between prison and the non-incarcerated community with time and space (Moran, 2012). Life in the streets was before/after and physically outside the prison place. In addition, experiences and meaning related to food constructed this distinction. Women reported having eaten irreg- ularly in the community during the weeks prior to their arrests, primarily because they were using drugs heavily: "I wasn't really eating, I was running on the streets doing drugs. I was eating like, that 25 cent chips a day, maybe like two bags" (P28). At the time of their arrest, 18 (78%) of the women reported being under the influence of drugs or alcohol; 7 (30%) reported being addicted to opiates. In this context of drug use, eating behavior was sporadic, unstructured, and inconsistent. In their first hours at the prison, during the initial processing and medical exam, this food insecu- rity continued: Women arrived at the facility in the early evening and were not fed until the next morning. "Even if you was to ask [for food], they'd tell you no. . .I didn't bother [to ask] because I already been through it already" (P13). These comments from P13 demon- strate how for women who had already been incarcerated at this facility, the prison place was partially defined by access to food, or lack thereof. When they began to receive prison food service, many women reported being too worried or high to eat: That night, I was high too. Like all I kept thinking about was, what was gonna happen. . .My little sister, she's coming up to [prison] with me, so I'm just like, oh, God. And then the kids, I'm thinking about my DCF case. And I'm like, I'm not f***ing, this case is serious. Like, I'm not going nowhere. I didn't want even want to eat that. I didn't want to eat nothing. (P14) Although incarcerated, P14 was still experiencing the effects of street drugs from the outside and was focused on the people and circumstances beyond the prison walls; her life transcended the carceral boundary. Choosing not to eat during this time reflected a refusal or inability to engage in her immediate surroundings: Her mind and self remained on the outside. Similarly, P8 recalled being too dope-sick to eat during intake: "I couldn't eat 'cause I was still sick. . .I thought I would try it [breakfast] and that day there was oatmeal and cake and of course, because it was sweet, the cake, I ate. And it wasn't warm, it was a little warm, and that was it" (P8). Her reluctance to eat was driven by the physical withdrawal produced by her relocation. In these ways, the intake space was a frontier: Food experiences were half-street and half-prison as food was available but scarce and drug use, although suspended, still interfered with consumption. Internal boundaries Interior places included housing spaces (i.e. assessment, gen- eral population, medical unit, and segregation), activity spaces (i.e. cafeteria, kitchen, classrooms, recreation/program rooms, and hallways), and micro-geographies within these places. The distinc- tion between these interior places was partially constructed by variations in food experiences and access. Here, we discuss three major food spaces that women described in their narratives: the confined housing spaces, the general population space, and the micro-geography of hunger. Confined units (assessment, medical, segregation) In the assessment units (where women were held when they arrived at the facility while undergoing medical and psychosocial assessments), medical units (which housed women experiencing acute medical problems), and segregation units (where women were held as the result of disciplinary action), women reported being confined to a solitary or shared room on a continual basis, leaving only for short recreational breaks and medical/counseling appointments. Meals were delivered to women in these units on trays three times a day or picked up in the common areas and taken back to the cell for consumption. The first space that women encountered after passing through the intake frontier was the assessment unit. Here they began to settle into their lives on the inside. Women described the food that was delivered on trays to their shared cells in the assessment unit as often inedible and cold: "A lot of times, the food gets mixed up, like when they deliver the food, the slop will fall onto the bread and the green beans will go into the slop and then it's like every- thing's everywhere" (P25). Still, the food routine was steady and predictable and this consistency contributed to the construction of this place as relatively safe and restful, a break from the stressors of street life and addiction. Prison, like the cake that P8 described, "wasn't warm, it was a little warm." For me, when I went to jail, and every time I've gone to jail, my runs have been so long and hard that I was grateful that I got to jail so I could just go to sleep. . .Some rest. I'm gonna be safe. I don't have to sleep with this dude, to be out of the cold. I don't have to pay these people, to be out of the cold. I don't have to stay up all night, trying to keep getting high to be out of the cold. . .When you get to jail, it's like, you know what? All of that! I just want to sleep, you know what I'm saying, I don't have to go through none of that. And it's about getting rest now, eating if you want to, bathing properly, and just getting all of that muck off of you and just clearing your head. That's how it was for me. . . You got your food, you can eat it. But if you can't eat, you can always put it to the side. (P11) While the food supply and organization of this space was appre- ciated at first, as women recovered from the series of events that led to their incarceration, the confined food routine quickly became old. They were feeding me, I thought I was just getting breakfast, I was like, "Oh, this is nice. I don't have to go to the cafeteria, I get it right in my room, oh great." And then lunch came, and then dinner and I was like, "What the hell is this? Why aren't we going to the chow hall?" (P5) This shifting perception of the assessment unit and its food sys- tems reflect the iterative nature of place. The mundane activities of

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