- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 21, 2002

Fairfax County Sheriff Stan Barry yesterday conducted a taste test of "the loaf," the disciplinary meal requested by sniper suspect John Lee Malvo, to prove that the one-pound brick of bread and vegetables is edible.

Sitting in a 7-foot by 15-foot cell similar to that of the 17-year-old sniper suspect, Sheriff Barry wrinkled his face as he chewed a bite of the "loaf" of the gooey mixture of wheat bread, raisins, spinach, beans, sugar and other ingredients.

"It looks awful," the sheriff said. "And it is pretty awful [Its] very good for you, but it's not tasty."

The teenager's court-appointed guardian, Todd Petit, has charged that his client is being treated unfairly and complained in a Dec. 16 letter to the sheriff's office that Mr. Malvo is experiencing "adverse physical reactions" to the loaf.

Sheriff Barry has noted that Mr. Petit requested the loaf for the teenager, who agreed to receive the loaf as an alternative to a vegetarian meal.

Mr. Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, 41, are suspects in a series of random sniper shootings in October that left 10 persons dead and three wounded in the metropolitan area. The teenager faces capital murder charges for a shooting in Fairfax County, and the elder suspect faces similar charges in Prince William County.

The pair also are suspects in fatal shootings in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Washington state.

The teenage suspect has received one loaf for breakfast, two for lunch and three for dinner since Nov. 19, when Mr. Petit requested the meal so that his client can meet the vegetarian requirements of his Muslim faith.

Sheriff Barry told the guardian that the jail does not serve strictly vegetarian meals because they would be too costly, and Mr. Petit requested the loaf as an alternative.

Most vegetarians among the county jail's 1,200 inmates receive the standard meals, which contain more than enough food and plenty of vegetables, Sheriff Barry said. The jail also serves a pork-free diet for Muslims.

The loaf, which the county sheriff's office adapted about a year ago, has been used by prisons and detention centers around the country, Sheriff Barry said.

"I had them put together a batch and tasted it and it was horrible," he said of the kitchen's initial efforts. "It was ghastly stuff. I literally couldn't swallow it. So I had them work on it."

The loaf is usually given only to inmates who have committed a serious infraction, such as assaulting a guard or another inmate, and the teenager is the first to request it, the sheriff said. Inmates are usually given the loaf for five to seven days and never for more than 15 days.

"Life in jail is very regimented," Sheriff Barry said, explaining the reasoning behind the disciplinary meal. "One of the few things [inmates] look forward to is mealtime. When that comes, you can see it in their faces they light up.

"If you take that away, and they know the alternative is not going to be good, but in fact unpleasant, then the next time they think about not obeying, or about assaulting someone, they think long and hard," he said, adding that the meal usually supplements loss of visiting and exercise privileges.

The teenager's diet will not change anytime soon. Mr. Petit left for an eight-day cruise Wednesday and will be out of contact until then, an assistant said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Malvo's court-appointed attorneys have not dealt with the sheriff on their client's quality-of-life issues and have no intentions of doing so, according to Lana Manitta, a lawyer at the firm.

Mr. Petit requested that the teenager be taken off the loaf in his Dec. 16 letter to Sheriff Barry, citing the teenager's "adverse physical reactions." But he also requested that Mr. Malvo be given "an alternative vegetarian meal," a request that has stalled any progress on the matter.

In a Dec. 18 letter to Mr. Petit, Sheriff Barry said the jail would not tailor a meal to suit an inmate's preferences.

"Since he is receiving the disciplinary diet at your request, we will discontinue serving that meal if either he or you request that we do so," the sheriff wrote. "If you do request the discontinuation of the vegetable loaf, he will be returned to the regular diet that every other Muslim in the facility receives, not a vegetarian diet."

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