Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thousands of Texas prisoners now "brunch" (before 7 a.m.) - weekend meals reduced at 36 units

The New York Times reported this week (Oct. 20) that:
Thousands of ... inmates in the Texas prison system have been eating fewer meals since April after officials stopped serving lunch on the weekends in some prisons as a way to cut food-service costs. About 23,000 inmates in 36 prisons are eating two meals a day on Saturdays and Sundays instead of three. A meal the system calls brunch is usually served between 5 and 7 a.m., followed by dinner between 4 and 6:30 p.m.

The meal reductions are part of an effort to trim $2.8 million in food-related expenses from the 2011 fiscal year budget of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the state prison agency. Other cuts the agency has made to its food service include replacing carton milk with powdered milk and using sliced bread instead of hamburger and hot dog buns.

Prison administrators said that the cuts were made in response to the state’s multibillion-dollar budget shortfall in 2011, and that the weekend lunches were eliminated in consultation with the agency’s health officials and dietitians. Michelle Lyons, an agency spokeswoman, said that inmates with health problems who have been prescribed a therapeutic diet continue to receive three meals per day. 
The Times' Manny Fernandez notes that these reductions actually began in April, during the last fiscal year. The cuts as a practical matter were even bigger than depicted in the Times article. Grits reported back in January that this line item was formally cut 13.5%, or more than $14 million, from 2009 levels (which IMO is the better point of comparison in a biennial budget). Still, this is the first story I've seen offering any detail on how implementation has directly impacted the quantity and quality of prisoner food. One imagines scaling back to two meals might also spur commissary sales, which through a jaundiced eye might look cynical after the Lege told TDCJ last spring to seize money in prisoner commissary accounts to pay for their healthcare and confiscated commissary profits for budget reduction that would have gone to "inmate recreational and educational materials."

It was a long, hot, un-air conditioned summer in most Texas prisons, with another one likely next year. Tack onto that rationing food and healthcare and reduced oversight of private facilities, and this issue joins the list of looming budget-related flashpoints before the Legislature meets again. That's especially true since, between weather and the commodities market, as Grits wrote when the budget cuts were announced, "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." Having failed to do that, front-line austerity in the prison cafeteria became inevitable. The question becomes, is it sustainable?

MORE: Best headline on this from CNN-Money, "Texas prisoners lose their lunch." AND MORE: At Texas Justice Dot Org.

36 comments:

sunray's wench said...

It doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to see TDCJ in 10 years time simply charging the families of inmates for all food, bedding, clothing, hygiene supplies, stationary & writing materials, health care, visitation, library use and anything else I may have missed off the miserably small list of things TDCJ currently provides. As if we are in someway responsible for the actions of others excluding our children.

Maybe then my husband will be able to call me occasionally, and pay the right amount for international postage. Oh, I forgot, those outside of Texas don't matter and don't count because we don't vote IN Texas.

rodsmith said...

how true sunray! of course at that point the families could demand the body they are paying for and just take it home!

Prison Doc said...

I believe these changes are more dramatic in the telling than they are in reality, but SW's predictions make them sound like they sprang full clothed from a Ken Follett medieval times novel. Who knows?

Reducing prison census is the only reasonable answer.

Anonymous said...

How is this going to work for the offenders that take med's and insulin- -that MUST eat within a certain time frame of taking their meds??

Anonymous said...

Why not slaughter the beef they sell out? Not saying all, but some- -if they grow their own, raise hogs and cattle- -why cut back on a meal for offenders?- -just going to make the offenders MORE aggressive with the officers- -in other words- -plain English here- -tdc just made it more dangerious for officers-- -that didn't get a raise this year.

Anonymous said...

Whitmire simply says, "If you don't like it, don't go to prison."

Nurseypooh said...

I've addressed this before on another post but here goes again.
I'm at a unit that serves 2 meals a day on the weekend the servings are very large and more food, the total number of calories is the same as if they were serving 3 meals per day and they are allowed a little more time to eat.
For instance: Brunch this morning was-pancakes, syrup, fried eggs, cheese, oatmeal, toast, milk and pears. I don't think they could get away with this if it weren't the same amt. of calories. A lot of the inmates don't go to the chow hall 3xs per day anyway.

As mentioned in the article inmates with special diet needs such as diabetics are issued 3 meals and a nightime snack, most of these small units shipped all their insulin dependent diabetics off the unit when we went from 12 to 8 hours.
I agree with prison doc, the pop. needs to be thinned down. I don't agree that murderers should be housed with hot check writers or DUI's but I'm just a citizen who works and pays taxes.........

sunray's wench said...

Nurseypooh - my husband is no danger to hot cheque writers of those in for DUIs. If he was, he wouldn't be housed with them.

Prison Doc - I sometimes wonder if The Handmaiden's Tale is a likely scenario in Texas too.

Anonymous said...

If it were too bad the inmates would kill a guard in protest. That would surely destroy the political careers of those who came up with this idea.

sunray's wench said...

12.40 Anon - you really have no idea do you. What possible purpose could your comment have besides inflaming a situation?

Guards have families. Why would anyone here want an inmate to deprive a family of their loved one, when we are dealing with that ourselves? Hurting the TDCJ staff would not improve the situation for inmates.

Woodsy said...

The U.S. Supreme Court made a shocking decision earlier this year requiring the State of California to release 35,000 prisoners because the state lacked the resources to provide adequate medical and additional services to. This is what is going to happen in Texas. I've begun to write a book and I have a chapter entitled "Building the Monster." In summary, Texas needed about 40,000 prison beds to carry us into the new century; instead, we built about 120,000. The bill is now coming due.

Nurseypooh said...

Texas does have a history of following Ca. in many issues.

I think Tx may already being sending illegals back to their home country. A officer at our unit also works for a county facility and she has been transporting many inmates to leave the country. Iran, Irag, El Salvador, Mexico, Cuba etc. are some of the countries I wasn't clear on whether they had committed a crime or were just here illegally, like their Visa had expired maybe.

Buckeroo said...

I would like to hear Sen. Whitmire tell Michael Morton "If you don't like it, don't go to prison!" And how many other M. Morton's are there behind Texas prison walls?

RSO wife said...

Unless you or a family member are now or have been incarcerated in a Texas prison, you have no facts to back up what you are talking about. You can only make assumptions based on someone else's information.

You can see by my screen name that I do have some facts and these are: Every prison is run differently and the kind of food served in one is not the same kind of food served in another. In some the meals are decent, in some they are terrible. In some they have large portions, in some they skimp on them. In some they allow the prisoners ample time to eat, in some they are herded out almost as soon as they sit down.

The fact that they are now getting 2 meals a day on the weekend is small potatoes compared to the big picture, which is: most should never have been sent to jail in the first place. Cheaper alternatives like probation, community service and mandatory supervision all fly out the window in the face of making headlines for those trying to either get elected or get re-elected and those making money off those who are incarcerated.

And to Sunray's wench, those of us who are voters IN Texas don't seem to count much these days either. There are only a few in the Texas State House that listen to reason on a regular basis.

CNBC had a program on several days ago called Billions Behind Bars. Watch it and then tell me that greed isn't what runs the TDCJ system.

14thdaymom said...

THATS HORRIBLE; prisoners are PEOPLE, and meals are one of the only things they have to look forward to each day. Not to mention they're already hungry and being fed the same drab menus with fillers and carbs. I wouldn't be suprised to see some disgruntled inmates acting out at this one. And to the people who say "well, dont go to prison" - look here motherf*(&^ers - sometimes, things happen... don't judge... and inmates are human beings, people's loved ones, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives. regardless.

Grandmom said...

Does this mean that during the death row/polunsky shake-downs every 90 days, which last about 2 - 3 weeks, prisoners get only 2 peanut butter sandwiches a day instead of 3? How much does a peanut butter sandwich cost?

Anonymous said...

LOL, I bet commissary sales have gone through the roof on weekends!

Sounds like another peanut shell game... "we are cutting meals to cut costs" ...so that inmates will buy commissary... which is revenue we don't to report how we spent it.

Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see

Anonymous said...

Although we're often urged not to waste compassion on prisoners, those of us who identify with the Christian label, should not pick and choose whom we will show compassion. According to Christ, every human being is worthy of redemption. So I believe the critical question is: How would we treat caged human beings (CHUBs) if we really cared about them?

Anonymous said...

Watch a little late night TV and sleep in on the week end and not have to get up at sun up for breakfast...sleep in a little longer and get up for a big ol brunch!

Damn that tough, real tough!

Anonymous said...

Yep! The family will be buying meal cards next. We might even be charge rent soon. Now why are they not smart enough to raise the phone minutes and rake in the dollars from that? How about care packages? How about helping us family members out a little with all the costs that are being passed on to us and the future costs that I know they will pass on next. They may have just locked up the entire family as a unit.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

I am continually amazed at the capacity some people have for hatred or is it just plain ole inability to feel for another person. Unit food service managers compute what they call a Cost Per Man Per Day for the food. When I was there, (in the 70's) it was around 1.23 a day. I cant see it being much higher now we used powdered milk at all times or skim milk. I was in charge of the milk room where we pasteurized all the milk brought in from the cowbarns. About 200 gallons twice a day.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

Keep in mind that guards are allowed to buy milk (not skim) at 50Cents a gallon then and could buy meat from the butcher shop at ungodly cheap prices. Back then we had thousands of acres of farnland and raised chickens pork and beef so I'm sure the prices have gone up by 10 or 12 cents

SErick said...

i like how it seems people forget that the general public didnt put the crooks behind bars they did. So yea the TDCJ needs to make cuts because i dont think i, we as the people paying for these convicts should give them anymore than whats nessesary for them to survive. Dont do the crime and you wont have to do the time.

Anonymous said...

I wonder where the money that is being saved is actually going. 10 to 1 odds on $100 bet that it doesnt reduce the prison budget and it wont result in lower taxes.

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

TDCJ is in the managerial shambles it’s in because of the entrenched retaliatory mindset against being told how to run a prison. Today’s academic inbreeds attempting to manage a 170k+ prison population obviously can’t seem to handle up on their business. I sometimes wonder if David Ruiz OBM, would have worked so hard to make things somewhat humane for TDC inmates if he would have known just how inhumane these people are. I actually think things were overall better back in the 70’s than they are now. At least in the 70”s, TDC didn’t have to STEAL money from Texas school children to pay for their bloated empires.

Crain Watcher said...

The key is you have a bunch of dummies running things. They could make unlimited profit if they did what every other state did and let the inmates have unlimited calls or at least double the current minutes. Care packages would also give kick backs too to TDCJ. Kick backs are important to any criminal activity especiallt TDCJ BUT WAIT THAT WOULD THEN HELP REDUCE THE CONTRABAND AND CELL PHONE PORBLEMS THAT BRING IN THE EXTRA CASH FOR THE EMPLOYESS. See the care packages and extra phone minutes would help the families but hurt the guards.

Greenman Ministry said...

We go to 13 prisons, and no two are the same. Some chaplains are saving money by requiring religious volunteers to provide grape juice for religious services, when the Chaplains' Handbook makes it clear that the Chaplaincy must provide it.
Most units have only two early meals on weekends. I'm sure that we get some attendance just for the juice and cookies.

Anonymous said...

Do you have to pay kick backs to the guards to get the grape juice in? I bet down in Gatesville one would have to pay kick backs to get it in.

Chris Halkides said...

I would like to know what are the limits to the state's position. Is it 2 meals per day on weekdays as well? If costs continue to rise, could it go to 1 meal per day? Instead of cutting costs, the state should be looking to add nutritional quality to the meals, as I have previously argued.

sunray's wench said...

Nurseypooh said "I'm at a unit that serves 2 meals a day on the weekend the servings are very large and more food, the total number of calories is the same as if they were serving 3 meals per day and they are allowed a little more time to eat."

I'm confused. If the inmates are being fed the same amount of food, where exactly are the financial savings being made?

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

When I was a teen at Gatesville my care packages included a box of cheap cigars, El Producto Blunts. Back then the kids could smoke, and cigarettes were like currency. Its amazing what people would do for cigarettes. I learned very early that the worth of a corrections officer, as they call themselves today, was equal to a “deck of squares” since that was about the total cost to have a inmate reminded them what punks they really are. I would dole out the cigars to the dorm men and supervisors in return for special privileges. I was an office boy similar to a building tender in TDC. I’m sure the gatesvilleites are still taking bribes, it’s the most inhumane unit of them all, I can’t imagine them not taking what they can from whomever they can, basterds.

Good question Sunray, when I read that statement I thought it was a fast written not well thought out statement or a classic toe the line foolish statement to defend and deflect the latest policy change. For over 30 years I have been amused how our states corrections people think everyone is stupid yet they are the ones who could be a damn sitcom. I mean really!

Crain Watcher said...

The problems with care packages today is they are worried about women trading lipstick or shampoo. They never take into consideration that some women are unable to buy tennis shoes because the commissary contract is broken and does not carry all sizes; however, the warden will not allow the family to send any to their love ones. You have to have smart people running these things and not a bunch of clowns. I saw on a correctional officer's forum where an officer calls TDCJ, Texas Department of Clowns and Jokes.

Anonymous said...

I know they have both male and female guards on the Crain Unit that will steal the inmates property and say it was improperly stored or contraband. Why do they do this? For several reasons to deprive, degrade and humiliate them and to make their families buy the same clothing and hygene stuff over and over again. They do this when an inmate will not have sexual relations with them also. I have been told the Safe Prison people are the biggest offenders. I am sure their are alot of bribes and kickbacks going on there also from what I have been told by other family members.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know what percentage the markup is on commissary? IE Ramen noodles cost x $ and are turned around and sold to inmates for y $ ?

Just curious how much money is bein MADE off inmates. Also how and where the prison system has to report that profits and justify where they are spending the money? I think every private company should be publicly listed that sell goods and services in the prison system. Oh and they have to have the name of their lobbying firm listed with the company as well.

dHarbour60 said...

So inmates continue to work as slaves in for profit Texas prison industries and continue to have their salaries(recreation and other programs) cut. The State might consider cutting out some fat in the form of officers who stand around doing nothing all day. I speak from experience regarding this.

Anonymous said...

your an @§§