- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

Fairfax County Sheriff Stan Berry said yesterday that if sniper suspect John Lee Malvo doesn't like his jail's vegetable loaf, the 17-year-old prisoner can eat the nonvegetarian meals served to the rest of the inmates.
But he shouldn't expect customized meals.
"When you go to jail you lose a lot of choices, and what you eat is one of those choices you lose," Sheriff Berry said.
Court-appointed guardian Todd Petit requested the vegetable loaf for Mr. Malvo in November after the teen's requests for a specialized vegetarian meal were rebuffed. Mr. Petit now says that the teen is experiencing swelling, diarrhea and other health problems as a direct result of eating the loaf.
Sheriff Berry told The Washington Times yesterday that the Fairfax County Jail stopped customizing meals for inmates about a year ago because of the costs involved.
Mr. Petit had earlier argued that Mr. Malvo, a practicing Muslim, required a vegetarian diet because of his faith. But Mr. Berry said that his office "investigated it and, in fact, Muslims do not require total vegetarian meals."
On Nov. 19, Mr. Petit formally requested the loaf a mixture of vegetable oil, raisins, carrots, spinach, powdered milk and other ingredients for Mr. Malvo, who agreed to the arrangement.
Since then, Mr. Malvo has "developed some sort of reaction," Mr. Petit told the Associated Press. "They use the loaf as a disciplinary tool, but he has not been a discipline problem."
Sheriff Berry agreed, saying that Mr. Malvo had not been a troublesome prisoner. The sheriff pinned the blame for the loaf disagreement on Mr. Petit, saying that his complaints about food were just another attempt to portray the sheriff's office as abusive and unfair.
Mr. Malvo's lawyers filed a complaint in November charging that the juvenile's placement in an adult detention center, as well as the condition of his cell, were "overly harsh and cruel."
"This is just Round Two, where they've decided that the food we're serving is not appropriate, even though this is what his guardian requested," the sheriff said. "We're not feeding this to this prisoner as a punishment."
Mr. Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, 41, are both suspects in the metropolitan area sniper shootings that left 10 persons dead and three wounded during three weeks in October. They are facing capital murder charges in two of those shootings Mr. Malvo in Fairfax County and Mr. Muhammad in Prince William County and are also suspected in killings in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Washington state.
Sheriff Berry said that he would remove the loaf from Mr. Malvo's diet if he received a formal request. But if that happens, "He will continue to get the regular meal, and he can eat what he wants from that meal."
Vegetarian prisoners usually get the meals served to all inmates and then pick and choose what they eat, Sheriff Berry said. Fairfax County has been serving the loaf which meets all the legal requirements on nourishment provision for prisoners as a punishment for about a year. And only, he said, "in the case of major rule violations, such as assaulting another prisoner or assaulting a correctional officer."
"That's what will usually get you some time with the loaf," he said.
Similar loaves are used as disciplinary tools in prisons across the country. Warden Thomas Corcoran of Maryland's Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore told National Public Radio in April that the practice has decreased the number of inmate assaults on the prison staff there.
Mr. Malvo's request for the loaf was a first for the sheriff's office, Sheriff Berry said. Twenty-five of the 1,100 prisoners in the detention center are being served the loaf as punishment. Most are sentenced to eat the loaf for five to seven days.
"Anything you eat three times a day you're going to start getting tired of, even a hamburger. But this stuff is even more bland than that," Sheriff Berry said. "It's tastes like your Aunt Jenny's casserole you're forced to eat every Thanksgiving. But it's not awful, and you wouldn't spit it out when you eat it."
Mr. Malvo's vegetarian diet is of an ultra-specific kind, said Sheriff Berry, who classified him as a "vegan." Vegans not only avoid meat, but also refrain from eating seafood or any other animal byproducts, such as dairy foods.
"We can't make exceptions for this one criminal," Sheriff Berry said. "The crimes he's accused of are particularly heinous, and it's a high-profile case, but we shouldn't have to treat him differently because of that."
Mr. Petit did not return phone calls last night.

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