Sunday, January 30, 2011

TDCJ reduced spending on prisoner food 13.5% since 2009

Here's a little-discussed budget cut that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has already implemented over the last couple of years which I was unaware of before seeing it in the recently released analyses of the proposed House and Senate Budgets (available from LBB):
Food for Persons - Wards of State:

Expended 2009: $106,601,431
Estimated 2010: $100,702,356
Budgeted 2011: $92,236,867
(Data from p. 552 of this enormous pdf)
If I'm reading these documents correctly, the 2011 "budgeted" amount (the current fiscal year) is the figure allocated after the agency was required to reduce its budget by state leadership last fall. In that preemptory move, TDCJ absorbed 15% of all state agency budget cuts totaling $75 million, and prisoners' food bill was apparently one source of savings. Alternatively, maybe the food money went to pay for un-budgeted security upgrades, drug testing of staff, or some of the other anti-contraband initiatives that seem to be implemented spontaneously every few months in reaction to each new crisis or negative revelation.

Texas prisons grow much of their own food, of course, but I'm aware of no upsurge in agricultural production that would explain this precipitous drop.

Whatever the case, for the upcoming biennium (2012-13), TDCJ requested a $5 million increase to $97.3 million per year to feed prisoners, but HB 1 gave them the same amount budgeted for 2011, and the Senate budget would spend just a few hundred thousand dollars more. Meanwhile, food costs are rising, so that leaves reduced quantity or quality as the only real ways to save money on that line item - unless, of course, the state decides to simply reduce the total number of people it's feeding three times per day.

42 comments:

Cheri Ledbetter said...

This is not surprising. I suspect Texas will follow California in reducing food consumption. Instead of three hot meals per day I would imagine "Johnny's" will be fed once or twice a day with only one meal hot. When this happens I would love to see the legislature share in the "Johnny's" just once. Dry bread with perhaps a gob of peanut butter or bologna with a green tinge. Just remember...when we begin to feed them worse than we do now we must expect them to become sick easier. However, I don't see that as a huge problem since the medical care will surely become worse than it is now.
Damnit...where is the surplus money Perry bragged about in his campaign speeches???

Anonymous said...

I manage to stay very healthy and do just fine on 1.5 meals a day. Why can't a convict?

Anonymous said...

Dang! I got out of TDCJ in 2006 and I didn't think the food could get much worse, but I hear it has. With this cut, TDCJ is going to be going into 3rd world status. No one should be fed that badly. To 1:37, you can get by on 1 1/2 meals a day because the QUALITY of your food is better. The food in TDCJ is often inedible; i.e. moldy, contaminated, loaded with foreign material such as bugs, grass, etc.

DeathBreath said...

In the past, TDCJ was a self-sufficient enterprise. Yes, they grew their own crops and fed the offenders.

Later, the politicians got involved. They replaced self-sufficiency with healthy government contracts. Oink, oink, oink.

As I've stated, a wise Warden once told me about the best way to run a prison: work them hard; feed them well; and adopt a firm and fair hand in their management.

I remember when offenders would whine and cry about having to work in the fields. Instead of working their way out of the fields, they wanted the best jobs without earning the privilege.

Frequently, they would feign mental illness in order to obtain psychoactive medications. Typically, this would either remove them from field duty or change their status to lighter duty.

In the units around the Houston area, they would donate the bounty of crops to the nearby food banks. So, when offenders started whining & crying over "hard work", I would remind them that they were helping the homeless.

Do you think this mattered tot them? No, they continued to play and manipulate mental health professionals.

I contend that the antisocial personality does not change until burn out happens much later in life when they get fed up with the consequences of their behavior.

I have a proposition. Here is a wonderful program to consider.

For those offenders who reside in punitive or administrative segregation, they should be placed on a stationary bicycle attached to a generator. If they want electricity, they must exercise.

Many offenders become quite obese from the lack of exercise & fat-laden food. If you doubt me, check the weight records.

Or, better yet, get in touch with Andy Collins. Vita Pro was so tasty.

Anonymous said...

My husband is currently incarcerated at the Goree unit, and works in the kitchen. He was telling me that the unit was ordering 800 lbs of meat with each order sent in, and now is only ordering 600 lbs of meat. An inmate was getting approx. 1.5 oz. of meat a meal. He said that most of the meat servings are chopped into a gravy style form.

I wonder why the prison system can't do like the school system does. The school's have the free lunch lines, and then most have a snack bar line that doesn't qualify for the free lunch program. If the unit would set up a line where inmates can swipe their ids and pay for a different hot meal that has larger, tastier portions, it might be a way for TDCJ to make some extra money to subsidize the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

Death Breath, you are painting a really inaccurate picture of most inmates. Obviously you are a guard or a former guard. (Hopefully it is the latter...because you post is coming across as that of an angry person, and imo someone who doesn't need to be in TDCJ any longer.) I don't think the obesity problem in TDCJ is any worse than it is in mainstream USA.

However; I do know that there are many times for whatever multitude of reasons, guards will not call rec. And inmates are limited to the amount of exercise they can do locked into their cells or dorms. A few years ago, TDCJ encouraged wardens to pull all inmates who were over 40 years old off the hoe squad. The meals served to inmates are high in calories and carbohydrates. Plus, the way the days are ran and the system is set up, naturally leads inmates to live a sedentary lifestyle. I think blaming the obesity issues on the laziness of inmates is an inaccurate and unfair accusation.

Wendy said...

I just think it is so hilarious to hear the opinion of the average american on how they think prison is. The truth, the hardcore crinminals that we really want punished don't feel the pinch of the tdcj meal programs, most of them don't even eat the tdcj meals. The big guns in prison through drugs and contraband/tattoo sales eat very well from comissary food. It is also very easy to extort even more money through a weak inmate in for petty drug crimes or theft who is often old, small, weak or just too timid to stand up for himself. It just doesn't make sense to punish the people that are not running anything and already suffer the most and have victimless crimes.

Anonymous said...

Prison needs to be hard; then folks won't want to be there. They have it better than many citizens on the streets.

Anonymous said...

When they reduced the budgets, they mandated that they (food service personnel) reduce the amount of slop after a meal because this is wasted food. They implemented using leftovers more and documenting them, again to reduce waste. They mandated more attention to prevent double-backs (inmates eating more than one meal by doubling back). When they anticipate preparing meals, they are only preparing enough meals for the offender population. TDCJ says it is one of the officers benefits to eat up to 2 meals in the chowhall each day, but food service personnel does not prepare meals for them per policy. Fresh foods from the field or other units are served as much as possible. For the most part, despite the comments, meals are filling if they are eaten.

Angee said...

On an off note--prison rape is a crime but outsiders encourage it to give someone what they deserve.
Inmates raise cattle and the meat inmates get are the scraps that the packing houses can't use. They raise chickens, pigs and have gardens and orchards. But ask an inmate when they have last had a chicken leg, a pork chop or a salad. All of that stuff is sold.
Inmates get slop and there is a lot left over after meals. It is put in big cans and bleach is poured over it so it can't be consumed by inmates that only had 5 minutes to eat.
It takes labor to produce all of these crops and I have always wondered where that money goes. TX beef raised by inmates has a high market value. I sure think there is a scheme going on. Prisoners could feed themselves and many people think they do but that is sold and we are charged to buy back the meat scraps and other slop.

DeathBreath said...

I have a novel idea, don't break the law. No, I'm not a former guard. Idiot. No, not all balloon up like that which would be included in the Macy's parade. Even some officers are grossly obese. The food is awful.

I feel that TDCJ should return to the standard of self-sufficiency & not government contracts. You can cook it however you like. If you are lucky enough to get money from your family, great for you.

Oink, oink, oink.

Hook Em Horns said...

At the rate the legislature is creating felonies and at the rate Texas locks people up, I would say there is an excellent chance that some of you die-hard law and order prison-lovin morons will eventually be dressed out in white, working the hoe-squad gettin punked in your butt at night and whining about the food.

As for me, I will likely by your defense counsel doing everything I can to get you out listening to you cry about how you never thought this could happen to you.

I am going to suggest, even though it will fall on deaf ears, that before you profess to be an expert on the Texas prison system, visit some a couple of prisons for yourself. You might be shocked, you may not but you will be EDUCATED instead of being led around by the nose by the liars in Austin and Huntsville.

Anonymous said...

I have a relative in prison who says he is always hungry with what they get and has to buy soup and stuff from commisary to get by. They reduce what they give them and make money off the inflated comm. It is a racket.

Angee said...

According to the state comptrollers budget food stamps are collected on inmates and if an inmate is under 21 they are stuck in some sort of educational program to collect the free breakfast credits.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Angee, please give me a reference and page number on that.

Deborah said...

Anonymous-- If your meals consisted of parts of small, dead animals, bugs or dirt could you "do just fine" on that? Or if it looked and tasted like Alpo the dog food, could you? I truly believe they are still serving inmates Vitapro, but they are not advertising that fact! I bet when old Rick Perry is enjoying a thick, juicy steak, he is not eating bugs or rats! Or the people up in the legislative branch and TDCJ (Rick Thaler) who has made these cuts to the inmate's food budget, are they thinking about the crap they are serving inmates? Or the benefit they are receiving from the contractors who take care of commissary from the inmates families? NOOOOOOO There is no compassion in this situation, and I sure do not see it here either!
I know if you "pay the crime, you have to do the time" but must we treat other human beings like animals?

DEWEY said...

To: Hook 'em Horns and every one else: I spent almost 5 years in the Texas Department of Corrup (oops) Corrections, so I fell I know what I am talking about when I post, unlike those that have not served time.

Texas Maverick said...

Real example of current menu: 2 slices white bread, small meatball (golf ball size) mac & cheese, sweet potatoes. Balanced meal, I think not. Cheap, you bet. Commissary items are necessary yet those funds are being diverted and thus they are not restocking and often run out. Keep these funds where they are supposed to be.

Don said...

Anon: 5:15--
I have seen many prisoners. Never saw one who wanted to be there. Chances are, neither did you. Most folks who participate in this blog are very intelligent and knowledgeable. When you put up some off-the-wall crap that you obviously know nothing about, you are not taken seriously; therefore wasting your effort.

Angee said...

Grits, I can't off the top of my head. At the time I was doing deep research on grants and trying to find the money trail on sex offenders. When I came across that item it blew me away. But it is there. Do we have some people here that can help locate it again?

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is time those of us who have loved ones incarcerated protest. I am more than willing to hold a sign. WOW, that could be a whole lot of us protesting.
Bryans mom

sunray's wench said...

I wouldn't normally defend TDCJ, but the food very much depends on the individual prison. Hubby has been through several, and the food at Coffield is OK (not great, but OK) and he often eats more in a day than I do. That said, he has a food service / kitchen job and is able to eat some of the left-overs from the previous meal before they are slopped out. He also said that Byrd unit had good meals, but Estelle was poor.

Other units do seem to have a probelm with serving edible meals.

Anonymous said...

angee cal TX voices, 877 215-6688, they can probably answer any questions on the sex offender issues.

Anonymous said...

Having just retired from TDCJ, thought I would throw in my two cents worth. Having done several kitchen rotations, ie security I observed a lot of slop being tossed out. If left overs were served, then that would help alot. Also in the 13yrs I worked for TDCJ, i ate alot of chicken thighs and legs, greasy porkchops and ribs. However the the food that TDCJ serves is a heck of a lot better then your homeless people get, or people on reduced income. As I told one offender how dare you bitch about what you are getting to eat when people in the world do not get that much!

Anonymous said...

Having just retired from TDCJ, thought I would throw in my two cents worth. Having done several kitchen rotations, ie security I observed a lot of slop being tossed out. If left overs were served, then that would help alot. Also in the 13yrs I worked for TDCJ, i ate alot of chicken thighs and legs, greasy porkchops and ribs. However the the food that TDCJ serves is a heck of a lot better then your homeless people get, or people on reduced income. As I told one offender how dare you bitch about what you are getting to eat when people in the world do not get that much!

Anonymous said...

Time for vitapro, again.

Anonymous said...

TDCJ is already treating people there worst than thrid world countries. They do their best to take recreation away so they do not have turn out for it. They now in Gatesville serve one egg instead of two. They are served the end and pieces of meat WalMart will not even sell. They serve 2 apples and 2 oranges twice a year. To the oink oink maybe one of your love ones will be one of the many non-violent offenders one day be tortured there. I would not believe anything coming out of someone's mouth who has ever been connected to TDCJ! All lies is what you get!!! Make the parole board release the non-violent offenders and quit playing judges. There are bugs and all kinds of trash being served in that food because no one has the moral authority to do the right thing. The people running and associated with TDCJ sees this torture as being fun and sport.

Anonymous said...

To those complaining about the bugs, rocks, leaves, etc... in the food. NO ONE wants to eat that in their food. When they bring in beans and things from the field - they are sorted and rinsed. Perhaps someone is doing a bad job, but this DOES NOT occur every day. Bring it to the attention of food service staff when it does happen. Most meals take into consideration the TDCJ Meal Planning Guide (diet meals have to follow exactly), what they have on hand and what is liked by the inmate population. If you don't like beans then you are in trouble because they are served at all meals except breakfast. If you are meat free - get use to Peanut butter sandwiches and extra cheese.
For the Vitapro person, I have not seen Vitapro in over 10 years. Offenders can send requests to the Warden about the food if there really are problems and they can at least look into it. Family members can contact the Family Liaison Officer. Offenders can use the grievance process. All the Food Service Officers I know, work hard to produce good, edible meals for EVERYONE.

Anonymous said...

I have been told by offenders that the fresh vegtables leave out the back gate and into the cars of the employees. The grievance procedure is broken plain and simple. Been there done that. The warden will do anything to save face and cover up anything and everything. Both are felony state offenses by the way.

Angee said...

Grit see if this works for you.
http://www.window.state.tx.us/tpr/tprgg/psc12ggs.txt

Anonymous said...

After going to that link I see that the state of Texas got funging for both free school breakfast and food stamps for people incarcerated. I wonder who stole this funding? Probably the wardens!!!

Angee said...

Yeah, I found that quite interesting when I found it several years ago. I didn't know if it was common knowledge but it was news to me.

Anonymous said...

Another prime example of TDCJ employees stealing again!!!

Anonymous said...

It is a well known secret that in Gatesville the ho squad picks and shells peacans in the winter for the guards to take home or sell and in the summer all the fresh vegetables home. None of those fresh vegetables ever reach the tables for the offenders to eat. Slavery is alive and well in Gatesville, Texas and the Warden is the Plantation Master!!!

Anonymous said...

Plantation Master more like War Criminal!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking that Texas should already be saving a huge amount of money on the food budget during prison lock-downs considering they are barely feeding the prisoners during this time. Who can live off of peanut butter and jelly, and what could that possibly cost? The Beto I unit has been under lockdown for over a month!

Robin said...

Anonymous said...

I manage to stay very healthy and do just fine on 1.5 meals a day. Why can't a convict?

At Anonymous....
ARE YOU AN IDIOT???? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THEY FEED THESE MEN??? MY SON IS IN POLUNKSY AND THEY FEED THEM CRAP!!!! IF NOT FOR HIS COMMISSARY MY SON WOULD GO HUNGRY. I DON'T EVEN HAVE TO ASK IF YOU ARE AN IDIOT YOUR POST SHOWS IT. GO SIT IN POLUNSKY FOR TWO WEEKS AND SEE HOW MUCH WEIGHT YOU LOSE.

Anonymous said...

My older brother is an inmate in midway. He did dumb things when he was younger. He has life in prison. If he could change his past he would. But in prison he has 4 college degrees. There's a religion dorm program he just completed. He has done mediation with the family of his past. And I am single mom and I'm supporting him. I send him commissary bi-weekly. His unit is on lock down. So the little money I can afford to send him does him no good. He ate a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly) for lunch, then again for dinner and a corn dog. My 4 year eats more than that. Yes they used to be a self sufficient unit, then they decided to sign contracts pay for food and depend on every body else. Now they can't afford it. And these people yes inmates but people; loved ones are starving. And there needs to be a solution. I came on here today to see if there was anything I could do. But reading through these posts was upsetting. It's sad everyone makes mistakes. Some people just don't get caught. But everyone deserves to be treated like a human. no like garbage because of something they did 10 15 or 20 years ago.
T

Michael Goff said...

phrike 8i am Michael W Goff and i will speak out and say that i wouldn't feed MY DOG the slop that I was served at Gib Lewis , AND I WORKED IN THE KITCHEN! Oh , the guards ate BBQ ,and Fried Chicken , and alot of them stole a turkey at Thanksgiving . I am all for going back to the old way IF some oversight to prevent graft was put into place , but seeing as how the Warden of each unit gets a cut of anything that goes on at that unit , that won't ever happen. What burned my ass was that I was being guarded by thieves, and masogonist, among other things. I hope that they answer to God for their hypocrisy!

Anonymous said...

I've long been a law-and-order Republican. One of my family members is incarcerated . . . first offense, non-violent. He deserves to be there. That said, it pretty much blows me away to see him so rail-thin that he looks like a concentration camp survivor. He's fairly matter-of-fact about it in response to my shock, but there's simply not much food; it's not very good quality or nutritious; what they get is over-cooked to a state of slop; it's rare to get something fresh; and corruption skims off it to boot (offenders and others). There's blame to go around.

Anonymous said...

Obviously you've never been in prison, lol. Explain one scenario where the average inmate has it better than the average free citizen.

Anonymous said...

This sounds good in theory, but we're dealing with convicts. Opening up another line, to the more privileged (Inmates with more funds in their accounts) will create another stratification in the already complex social system inside the walls.