Thousands of inmates in the Texas prison system are no longer served lunch on the weekends, a move that was enacted earlier this year in an effort to trim $2.8 million in food-related expenses from the 2011 fiscal year budget of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Approximately 23,000 inmates in 36 Texas prisons are now only eating two meals a day on Saturdays and Sundays, The New York Times reports. A meal that has been renamed brunch is typically served between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., followed by dinner between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Michael Lyons, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice told the source the cuts -- which also include replacing cartoned milk with the powdered variety, which administrators say would save $3.5 million a year annually -- were made in consultation with the agency's health officials. Prisoners who have been prescribed a particular diet due to health problems will continue to receive lunch on the weekends.
While prisoners will still be able to purchase snack foods from prison commissaries, low-income inmates whose families cannot afford to send them money will likely be left without any other options for sustenance.
Other States Also Cutting Prison Meals
Texas is not the only state that has resorted to feeding prisoners less in order to cut costs. Both Ohio and Arizona prisons also serve two meals per day on the weekends, while Georgia prisoners go without lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Daron Hall, the sheriff of Davidson County, Tenn. and president of the American Correctional Association Told the Times the organization recommends that adult prisoners be served three meals per day. Although variations are technically allowed on the weekends as long as the meals meet basic nutritional standards, Hall said Texas prison officials are abiding by a loose interpretation of that guideline.
I've never read the standard to mean you can do it every weekend, Hall said. In the economic climate we're in, you're asked to do some creative and inventive things. You have to balance that with the safety and welfare of inmates in the facilities.
Cutting meals is not the only measure Texas prisons have taken to save its pennies. Last month, prison officials announced that it ended the traditional practice of serving death row inmates a last meal before their execution after a prisoner ordered a feast pizza, hamburgers and chicken-fried steak that he ultimately declined.