Is it your constitutional right to be allowed to eat Cocoa Puffs in jail…

This article caught my eye in the newspaper, as though it seems something quite trivial, it is a reminder that prisoners expect their rights to be upheld despite potentially (depending on their crime) having taken away another human being’s rights.

So the question to be asked is, “If you are in jail pending a charge of aggravated murder, do you have a constitutional right to Cocoa Puffs?”.  According to lawyers in Washington, apparently you do, as they spent more than two hours arguing that the prisoners should not be denied their Cocoa Puffs.

The background to this case is that Holly Grigsby and David “Joey” Pedersen are accused of killing the latter’s father and stepmother in Everett. They are also being investigated with regard to two other killings.  At their preliminary hearing they had both been classified as maximum security (because of the nature of the charges against them and they had been on the run via three states before they were caught).

In America, a maximum security classification means that the prisoners are not allowed access to the prison’s shop (thus meaning in their case that they cannot get their Cocoa Puffs).  The reason behind being denying prisoners access to the shop, is that allowing them access to snacks could be cause a security issue.  The State knows that snacks can be used as currency for favours, and sugar based snacks are used amongst prisoners to make “jailhouse hooch”.

Holly Grigsby, since being jailed has already violated prison rules and regulations on numerous occasions, including trying to brew alcohol in her cell, as well as making attempts to communicate with David Pedersen via a mail scam.

Holly Grigsby’s defence lawyer, Pete Mazzone, wrote a length submission stating that it was against Holly’s constitutional rights that she is denied access to the prison shop and that a small bowl of Cocoa Puffs could not amount to a potential security breach.  

A month after the submissions, Judge Linda Krese decided that it was not against your constitutional rights, and that she could go without Cocoa Puffs – especially considering how trivial this matter was in comparison to the crimes they had committed and the fact that they both could receive the death penalty for their crimes.

This is remarkably similar to a few cases in the UK where prisoners have argued that it against their Human Rights that they do not have their own bathrooms, or sleep in double beds etc… With some people already disgruntled with the way prisoners apparently “have the easy life behind bars” , certain British citizens feel more needs to be done to make prison a potential deterrent, rather than as some people call it, “a holiday camp”.  

rebecca x


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