Men at the Utah State Prison add an average 34 pounds in one year behind bars; women add 17. Growing numbers of overweight and obese inmates are contributing to spiraling health care costs in the state’s prisons, says the Salt Lake Tribune. By one estimate, Utah spends as much as $2 million a year on food inmates don’t need. While the Food and Drug Administration recommends 2,000-calorie diets for people with active lifestyles, Utah prisoners, both men and women, are fed a 3,000-calorie diet, and they generally don’t exercise.
Many inmates who are healthy when first incarcerated later develop problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and acid reflux related to their poor diet and lack of exercise. In 2004, the Utah Department of Corrections spent more than $80,000 on medications used to treat obesity. It spent an additional $34,105 on Lovastatin, a cholesterol-lowering agent. Warden Clint Friel said taking away inmates’ sweets could incite a riot. “You get one riot, you’re into it millions and millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re here to manage the unmanageable.”