"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Three hots and a cot --Not!

Apparently feeding prisoners is become too expensive for some prison systems in the U.S., so they've decided to cut back a bit, by dropping lunch from the program.

Georgia now only feeds inmates lunch on the four days a week that they work. The state prison system switched to ten hour work days four days a week as a money saving move. Here is the menu for no-lunch Fridays Since this is the menu released by the prison system I think its safe to assume that this is as good as the menu gets for inmates. (parenthetical comments are mine)

  • Scrambled eggs (probably safe to assume these would be powdered eggs)
  • Grits
  • Corn Muffins
  • Bran cereal
  • Pineapple beverage ( the linked article notes that many states are cutting back on fresh fruit to save money. In Alabama inmates get an apple or an orange once a week.)
  • Margarine (this is a menu item? Is ketchup a vegetable again?)
  • Coffee
  • Milk (as noted in the linked article, may states are cutting back on milk to save money. In Alabama inmates get three servings a week, in Tennessee they have gone from twice a day to once a day)

  • Chicken and biscuits (I'm betting on a drumstick and a thigh and no more than two bicuits - and I notice there is no margarine for the biscuits on the menu. Update - via email I learn that chicken and biscuits is more likely a chicken stew with dumplings and chunks of processed "chicken-like" meat product - a h/t to the best book page editor I know)
  • Turnip greens
  • Tossed salad (I'd have thought this came later in the privacy of one's cell, not right there in the dining hall)
  • Vinegar and oil dressing
  • Mashed potatoes (again, I have no doubt these are the powdered type)
  • Spice cake
  • Iced tea
Portions are supposedly larger on days when only two meals are served.

Now, I'm not saying that inmates should eat like kings or anything, but there should be some sort of minimum standard. In the Georgia State Prison system male inmates get 2,800 calories a day and female inmates get 2,300, but I suspect most of those calories come from powdered mashed potatoes and the like.

Still, it sounds better than some of the country lock-ups:

Federal Judge Arrests Ala. Sheriff Over Jail Food
DECATUR, Ala. (AP) ― A federal judge ordered an Alabama sheriff locked up in his own jail Wednesday after holding him in contempt for failing to adequately feed inmates while profiting from the skimpy meals. U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon had court security arrest Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett at the end of a hearing that produced dramatic testimony from skinny prisoners about paper-thin bologna and cold grits.

Bartlett had no comment as he was led from the courtroom. His attorney, Donald Rhead, said he believes the sheriff will be kept away from other inmates and hopes he will be quickly eleased.The sheriff, who showed no emotion when his arrest was ordered, had testified that he legally pocketed about $212,000 over three years with surplus meal money but denied that inmates were improperly fed.

Sheriffs in 55 of Alabama's 67 counties operate under the system allowing them to make money operating their jail kitchens. The law pays sheriffs $1.75 a day for each prisoner they house and lets the elected officers pocket any profit they can generate.

(snip, snip, snip)

The law doesn't require the money to be spent at the jail or within the department; sheriffs can keep it as personal income. They historically have provided little information about profits, so the hearing offered a rare look into a practice that dates back to the Depression.
At the hearing, 10 prisoners told Clemon meals are so small that they're forced to buy snacks from a for-profit store the jailers operate. Most of the inmates appeared thin, with baggy jail coveralls hanging off their frames.Some testified they spent hundreds of dollars a month at the store, which Bartlett said generates profits used for training and equipment.
Inmates told of getting half an egg, a spoonful of oatmeal and one piece of toast most days at their 3 a.m. daily breakfast. Lunch is usually a handful of chips and two sandwiches with barely enough peanut butter to taste..

From the CNN version of the story:

However, Clemon wrote in court documents that a typical breakfast for county inmates was a serving of grits or unsweetened oatmeal; half an egg or less, sometimes cold; a slice of white bread; and unsweetened tea or a beverage such as Kool-Aid.
Lunch was either two peanut butter or bologna sandwiches, "with a small amount of peanut butter or an exceedingly thin" slice of bologna between two slices of white bread; a small bag of corn chips; and flavored water or unsweetened tea.
A typical dinner was two hot dogs or meat patties; a slice of bread; and mixed vegetables or baked beans, the judge wrote. At times, when chicken was served, it was undercooked and pink, Clemon said. Salt, pepper, sugar or other condiments were not provided; they must be purchased by inmates at the jail store.
Inmates never receive milk, Clemon said, and receive fruit only three or four times a year

Both stories make mention of the Sheriff bragging about how he tried to offer the inmates some variety in their diet. He split the $1,000 cost of a truck load of corn dogs with another country sheriff and the inmates were apparently fed corn dogs morning, noon and night until they had eaten their way through the tractor-trailer load. If a parent fed a child like this to save money to spend on themselves, it would be considered neglect.
And lets not even get started on privately run prisons.
I bet Conrad Black is eating a lot better than this.

1 comment:

Tom said...

I think your assessment of the chicken and biscuits may have been a bit too optimistic when you said: "I'm betting on a drumstick and a thigh and no more than two bicuits - and I notice there is no margarine for the biscuits on
the menu."

If you do a Google image search for "chicken and biscuits" you will get a variety of photos, but many of them are nearly the same as what you'd get for an image search of "chicken and dumplings" -- that is, chicken stew with blobs of dough cooked right on top of it.

Consdering that margarine and salad dressing are each listed as separate items on separate lines of the menu, and considering that "chicken" and "biscuits" appear together on a single line, I would assume that this a
single dish of stew (which would explain the lack of margarine for the biscuits).

You're probably right to think that other parts of the menu refer to powdered eggs and powdered potatoes. Now try to imagine powdered chicken.