Health Care, Prison Diet, The real Cost-Larry “Rocky” Harris – 1
My link to the Weston A. Price Foundation should be on the real cost of the Illinois Prison Project Health care, and the detrimental affects of a soy diet lawsuit. www.westonaprice.org/soy Harris et al v. Brown et al-cv-03225. I must survive in this environment until I can prove my innocence. To do that I must be able to survive the prison diet being fed to me. Sadly, the “Pay To Play” schemes in place cost the Illinois Prison population their health. Former Governor Blagojevich got in bed with Archer Daniel Midland of Decatur Illinois. Money changed hands deals were made, the real meat was replaced by the detrimental soy diet which is being promoted as “healthy” to Americans.
Everyone told me I was crazy to think that I, a prisoner, could take on the big corporations. The prison industry and its’ contractors could not be touched by a convict. I was told to leave the pen alone and lie down and do my time. I was ordered to accept the “status quo” and not rock the boat. I was repeatedly placed in “the hole” on bogus charges. But like the great “Jailhouse Lawyers” before me I bit the bullet and rode out the hard times. I had taken a case to trial in the Federal District Court in East St. Louis acting as my own attorney. The case involved housing and cruel treatment. It changed the way the men at the maximum security prison was treated. This was not my first ride in the rodeo. I had filed petitions to free other men. For that I had been punished too. No good deed goes unpunished behind these walls. This was a fight I had to take on. It was personal here.
In 2003, then Governor Blagojevich cut the prison dietary budget by $6.2 million. Reel beef and pork was gone, replaced by the soy protein mixed with poultry scraps. The food automatically started to affect the prison population. Over 70 percent of the prisoners started seeking medical care for a myriad of gastrointestinal problems, ranging from chronic constipation to severe diarrhea. The prison health care call lines were crowded each morning. The cons working the assignments listened to the Wexford Medical Providers laughing about the money coming in now. They brought back the crucial information showing that two thirds of the men were getting sick, and Wexford was making a two dollar co-payment each time the men sought care. The Wexford staff refused to admit that the food was the cause of the medical problems, but sold laxatives and stomach medication to each man at a two dollar charge. They were profiting off of the men’s pain and suffering. I could not just ignore these facts.
I knew, being in a sterile environment, there was only one thing that could be making me so ill. It had to be the food. I would not move my bowels sometimes for five days at a time. My body temperature was ranged from 95 to 96 degrees. When your core temperature stays this low, you suffer. My body ached 24 hours a day. My joints hurt like someone had beaten me with a bat. I went to my friend that had always come through for me when I needed some research. Judith Trustone found some articles on the detrimental effects of a soy diet on the internet. I was glad to get her mail, and as I read the symptoms of hypothyroidism, it jumped off the pages at me.
I went to the prison doctor. I was spun, denied treatment, and then told to not eat the food if it made me sick. I stopped eating it. I had a really cool cellie named Ron Barrow who had funds for commissary and freely shared his food with me. Then, the long run of lockdowns began in January of 2006. On lockdowns, the prisoner is not allowed to buy food. Each prisoner is issued one large plastic storage box in which to place his property. All commissary, plus clothes and property must fit in this box. It is 12” tall, 30” long, and 20” wide: not much room to store a lot of food. Lockdown draws the bare bones of things. Three State meals a day and a ten minute shower was the routine at the Menard Prison. When we ran out of the food in our boxes, I was forced to start eating the Prison Diet again to survive.
I woke up on May 29, 2006 and could not breathe. My throat was closed, I was sweating heavily, and my skin had turned gray. Ron called for the guard. The officer took one look at me and called the hospital. I was placed in an ambulance and rushed to Chester Hospital. From there, I was transferred to Belleville Cardiac Center. A pacemaker was placed into my chest because my heart rate was in the upper 30s to low 40s. My thyroid level for TSH, T-4, and t-3 signals that day was 6.9. The normal range for these levels (as set by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists) is .27-4.2 for men and women. No one looked at this fact before placing the pacemaker in my chest. I was returned to the prison.
On July 14, 2006, I ate the soy diet again because we were on lockdown and I was starving. Two hours later, I was back in the Chester Memorial Hospital. The doctor there informed me that there was nothing wrong with my heart; it was the soy diet that was killing me. I went back into the prison and demanded health care. I was denied treatment for Hypothyroidism. I was denied the medically recommended soy-free diet. Soy protein consumption causes and exacerbates the disease of Hypothyroidism. The prison medical providers and dietary staff denied this fact, for to admit it meant that they must change the diet in place, and Governor Blagojevich did not want his “political contributions” from Archer Daniels Midland being messed with. From May of 2006 until February of 2009, I was denied a diet that I could eat. At five-foot-ten, I dropped to a weight of only 135 pounds. I was looking really bad and feeling even worse. It was then that things changed in my life.
In August of 2007, I filed a civil rights lawsuit in the US Central District Court of the Federal Court System in Springfield, Illinois. I thought its kind of ironic I filed a civil right lawsuit, seeking a diet to sustain my health, in the Illinois State Capital. Through the help of Judith Trustone I read an article written by Doctor Mary Enig. Everything she had written, I was living. I wrote the editor of the magazine and she directed me to the Weston A. Price Foundation in Washington D.C. Once I demonstrated to its Presiident, Sally Fallon Morrell, what was going on in the Illinois Prison System she offered to help. Now we have the little man, the prisoner, taking on the big prison industry and corporate giant. The Weston A. Price Foundations lawyer, David Gary Cox, now represents me and eight other men in this historic case. Harris et al v. Brown et al 3:07-cv-03225-HAB-CHE is a case that all Americans should know about. Only when the parents learn about the terrible effects of soy infant formula and a soy diet on their kids growth and development will it be taken out of the schools. Everyone with a family member in a State Institution, like a nursing home, mental health center, or prison should watch this case, because this garbage is being dumped there disguised as real meat.
Now I am being treated for Hypothyroidism, as I receive 25 MCG of Levothyroxine each morning. I receive a soy free diet and my health is getting better. Why did I fight so hard one might ask? My little girl made me fight. To live to prove my innocence. Many nights, in the dark days of the year 2006, I prayed to the universe to release me from this life in my sleep. It was not to be and I had to overcome my situation and fight on. I fight to prove my innocence and get my life back for one reason over all others.
In 1990, I received custody of my five year old daughter, Amanda. I had spent the first five years of her life in prison. Life with her Mom had not been great. As a young man I rode the iron horse and lived as a one percenter. In the early sixty a great man had stated, “one percent of the people who ride motorcycles are criminals.” The logo stuck among the biker community. The real free spirits, that bowed down to no mans rules, were called “one percenters.” I had embraced this lifestyle and whole heartedly live by this motto. I wanted better for my family. I grew up poor and wanted mine to have a greater life. I grew fields of marijuana. One biker, acting as my friend, stole my fields and seduced my lady. I could not accept this disrespect. I went to his house and dropped a hammer on him. When I pulled that trigger, when I emptied that load of buck-shot in his face, I threw away my life. I missed the first five years of my baby girl’s life.
Amanda had lived a rough first five years of her life. Her Mom constantly moving from one place to another to beat the rent. Up late in the bars never knowing where she would end up for the night. I had to give my baby girl a better life than that. I went to court and was given my litter girl to raise. When I got her, it changed my life. I promised her I would never leave her again. I would always give her a home with a bedroom that was all hers. In her eyes every day I saw the fear go away and the security grow. She made me grow as a man. That responsibility changed me. As I watched her come out of her shell, she became the little girl that was my little sweety. She made me laugh every day. She was my shadow. In her eyes I could do no wrong. It was the greatest five years of my life. She made me strive to be a better father, to grow as a man. I made her a promise that haunts my soul every day. I promised her I would be there for her. Amanda has drifted away. I lost my little girl. The State stole my life and I want it back. I want my little princess to understand I did not choose a life of crime over her. In my dreams, I still see that look of fear in her eyes as they took her away from me on the day the man arrested me on this bogus charge. So I fight to survive. I fight for a diet to sustain my health. I fight to get a voice to be heard. I fight to expose the hidden evidence the jury never heard. My little girl’s eyes haunt my soul. I failed her.