Soylent as a food for inmates

I think a fabulous cost-savings device for penal institutions could be to transition to Soylent-only diets for the inmates. While they purchase bulk to save in costs, right now California claims they feed their inmates for about $4.04 a day. With bulk purchasing and streamlining of appliances in the kitchen the elimination of all plates and utensils they could save a lot by going Soylent-only.

And the inmates would be the healthiest they’ve ever been.

Just a silly thought that is probably a good idea.


And you could punish them by giving them a low energy/noontropic day when them are bad! :wink:


I have to be honest and state that I find that an appalling idea, BE. It comes perilously close to the “medical experiments” of the Third Reich. No one, inmate and felon or otherwise, should be arbitrarily deprived of regular normal meals of normal food or forced to consume soylent or any other formulated meal-replacement product against their will. It’s one thing for us here to willingly and voluntarily experiment with soylent, deciding for ourselves how much of the time to drink soylent and when or whether to enjoy normal food. But it’s quite another to subject prison inmates to experimental regimens of any kind. Fortunately I think the serious legal liabilities involve would dissuade most prison administrators from attempting any such thing. (I’m sorry to be such a wet blanket but I truly found this an alarming idea that totally defaulted on the human-rights front. You cannot ethically force people to consume things against their will on the premise that said things are “good for them.” Have you never heard it said of someone, “He’s a do-gooder – he’ll do you good if it kills you!”)


I was going to quote what you said that I agreed with but then I realized it was basically everything.

On another note, we could also save money by, you know, not throwing so many people in jail.


It being “experimental” is directly related to when. I wasn’t assuming right now but down the road. Once Soylent is “proven” and not experimental then would your tune change?

Before I answer that directly, let me ask you a question, BE: at what point “down the road” will you yourself consider soylent “proven” and upon what criteria?

1 Like

Prisons have already tried to do almost this exact same thing with Nutraloaf.

It was determined eventually to be cruel and unusual punishment.

1 Like

I see no similarity between Nutraloaf and Soylent.

@J_Jeffrey_Bragg I’m not sure. What do you think?

I can see where replacing a meal (or two every other day or something) might be acceptable considering the nutrient benefit and cost (if it truly would be more cost effective.) But definitely not all meals should be replaced - I can see maybe lunch or breakfast being replaced with it though without it becoming something that (as J_Jeffrey_Bragg mentioned) would be akin to experimenting on unwilling masses, which is morally unacceptable to say the very least.

Not a bad idea but only for partial replacement though I would think, and only after a LOT of clinical research has been done to prove there are no ill effects, and also only for those without special dietary needs such as diabetics and such, until a LOT more clinical research has been done on those groups in particular…

Perhaps the best approach would be to offer it in prisons as an incentive - if they opt in, they get more tv time or maybe even earning early parole time? They have all sorts of incentives in prisons today - this could be added to that list…


I can definitely see the tangential similarities, but without much else to go on, it seems like Nutraloaf was explicitly created to have the minimal nutrient requirements while also being explicitly unpleasant for inmates. Soylent, by most accounts so far, is at least relatively bland to rather pleasant, with the added bonus of having a complex enough flavor that it doesn’t get old.

As far as soylent as a prison food goes, I don’t really see an issue with it either (though as I typed this @Lisa chimed in with only partial replacement idea, which I can definitely agree with!) With enough long term data (I would say after a minimum of a phase III clinical trial), it’s not only cost effective, but also could end up helping those incarcerated have a more nutritionally complete diet.

@J_Jeffrey_Bragg: I understand your qualm of ‘depriving [people] of regular, normal meals,’ but for all intents and purposes that’s pretty much what soylent is, it’s just in a different form. (my previous point wasn’t really relevant, hence the edit).

I’m not sure if the topic was made with an ‘ideal world scenario’ in mind; one where the prisons aren’t packed and privatized, and where incarceration rates go down instead of sky rocket. But at that same token, in an ideal world scenario, we probably wouldn’t be here discussing trying to extract a meaningful, complete, and cheap diet out of powders and vitamins.

1 Like

Not fair, BE! :smile: Not only did I ask you first, but you yourself raised the issue in the first place. What do I think? I think this is one of the major unresolved issues about soylent, worthy of its own thread. I’ll start a new one on that topic and we can explore it at length, perhaps.

If down the road it is found to be fit and healthy for human consumption, filling all the needs of a prisoner nutritionally, I see no reason why it couldnt be used as a meal replacement for prisoners. MREs I bet taste worse than Soylent. Ive had MREs, would almost rather starve.

I can speak only for myself. Blood work and my doc signing off on it will be enough “proof” that it’s safe and effective for me. My blood pressure is already coming back to normal and I’ve feeling wonderful, energetic, and have never slept so well. I was also considered “pre-diabetic” a year ago so I’m keeping an eye on that. I’ve been spot-checking my glucose randomly throughout the day and the patterns look normal and healthy other than I have hypoglycemic levels in the morning though I experience none of the symptoms. I’ve also lost 8 pounds since I’ve started. I actually love this change.

Surely you do see, though, that your personal criteria for participation in the soylent experiment are only tangentially and anecdotally relevant to the question of making soylent the only food available to a group of prison inmates? Just from a human rights POV, quite apart from any nutritional question?

I really had no intent of exploring the moral discussion behind my comments, only that once proven and cost-effective it could be a wonderful way to reduce costs, save time, and improve the health of people in systems like schools, prisons, etc. I guess I buy into Rob’s vision of where it could go. This is all speculative and “down the road”.

I consider the low-nutrition processed crap that prisoners are fed to be appalling. I consider the fact that most prisons in the US refuse to provide a vegetarian/vegan/kosher/halal alternative (which could be one meal) appalling. I consider the fact that more and more prisons are now run as for-profit institutions where they have every incentive to cut back on the quantity and quality of food to boost their stock prices to be appalling.

There are things a lot more appalling than providing soylent to prisoners.


I absolutely agree with you there, Tai. Like Joan Baez, I find the whole conceptual framework of penal servitude and everything associated with it to be quite dubious both in terms of morality and of efficacy – but that is getting rather far OT from soylent, I fear.

“Providing” soylent is one thing; but using it as the only food offered in an institutional framework is quite another. That’s the point I was trying to make. From a human rights POV I don’t think it would be feasible for the foreseeable future.

Interesting idea. Someone definitely would need to check into this, for ethical and how effective it would be once Soylent matures and becomes official product.

1 Like

I have heard the horror stories of food in prison. From how terrible the gruel is to inmate cooks peeing, pooping, and masturbationg into the food. I will take my chances with the soylent thank you very much.

what if it were available to long term inmates as an optional savings plan for when they are released, also linked to good behaviour.
after a 10 year sentence, you are given a check for the difference between what it would have cost to feed you traditionally, and the cost of feeding you on soylent, plus interest.