Eating In Federal Prison- A Guide To Mainline And Chow Hall
The place where meals are served in prison is called mainline or the chow hall. As a federal inmate, you will be given three meals a day. Meal times will vary depending on the institution, but generally breakfast is served from 6-7am, lunch from 11-12am and dinner from 5-6pm.
In prisons with many units, there will be a system in place to decide the order in which the units are called. This will usually be based on a score stemming from a weekly inspection of the units. In theory, the cleaner units are awarded higher scores and these inmates are called up to eat first. This is a assistance as one will not have to wait in line and one is assured a place to sit. But in reality, the inspection team often don’t already show up. in spite of, a score is somehow nevertheless awarded and the unit’s place is set for the week.
Eating in the chow hall is a lot like being back in your high school cafeteria. You will wait in line, get a plastic tray and utensils and then be given your ration. Unless you are in a Federal Prison Camp, you will not be permitted to return for a second helping.
except the recreation yard, the chow hall is the only place that you will see so many inmates and staff at the same time. If your unit is not one of the first to be called up, it is doubtful that there will be an open table by the time you arrive. Look around and find someone who doesn’t look too crazy and take a seat.
It’s important to keep in mind, especially at the start of your sentence, that the other inmates will be watching you and taking mental notes on who you associate with. This information will be used to decide what kind of person you are. For this reason, if you find yourself at a table with an inmate you don’t know, don’t be too eager to rush into a friendly conversation. If it turns out that he is greatly disliked by the majority of the inmate population, your being chummy with him will not help your cause as the months and years go by. Remember, this is prison. You are under no obligation go out of your way to be additional polite or make friends. When at a table with an inmate you don’t know, you can briefly concede him and then look down, eat your meal and leave. There will be plenty of time to get to know people. Most of the inmates will not be going anywhere any time soon.
Before you get up, it is considered proper etiquette to offer anything you are not going to eat to those at the table with you. Many inmates cannot provide commissary and rely on the chow hall thoroughly for their food. An additional apple or some bread can average a lot. As they are getting up to leave, you will see many inmates knock the table twice. This is a sign that they are finished and are headed out. This is one of the many quirks of prison culture and before long, you will likely find yourself doing the same thing.
The chow hall is much like high school too in that different groups usually sit in different places. It’s important to observe this where it exists and respect it. If you are white and it is obvious that only black people are sitting in one area, then don’t go sit there. Look around and find where the white people are sitting. In the beginning, walking into the chow hall alone can be a little intimidating. Just mind your own business and you will be left alone. If you keep to yourself, no one is going to be especially interested in you. Ands it won’t be too long before you meet some decent people and head up to mainline with a associate of other inmates from your unit.
It will come as no surprise that prison food is bad. Expect a lot of mystery meat, bread and pasta. There is also an abundance of white flour and sugar and a near complete without of fresh vegetables unless one is on the shared faire diet plan. For most inmates, a piece of fruit is usually obtainable once a day. Despite the BOP’s insistence that all inmate’s are served nutritionally sound food, many new inmates find that they quickly gain weight in the double digits. As per Federal law, a vegetarian different is obtainable at every meal. However, this different can often hardly be called a meal-for example you may be offered some cottage cheese or a cup of peanut butter in place of fried chicken or beef stew.
Tip- Most of the prison staff will be present at the lunch meal. They will congregate in one area, talking amongst themselves and watching the inmates. If you have concerns about anything at all, this is one of the best times to discuss them with a staff member. Outside of mainline, there are few opportunities to have a casual discussion with the higher ups of the prison staff. Walk up to the staff member and politely ask if they have a minute. If they are speaking with someone else, stand back a few feet and wait. Do not interrupt. Remember, these people can make your stay far worse than it already is if you give them a reason to.