Monday, May 3, 2010

CellBlock AppleBees?!?

I get forwarded emails about whimsical public interest stories all the time, and usually pass. But for some reason, the ethical dilemma of this story stuck so I'll ask ya'll what you think.

You guys know how I hate overly quoting stories, but hey, when the shoe fits... you must cut -n- paste.
In a bid to raise cash and keep the peace in crowded jails, wardens nationwide are offering inmates the chance to order meatball subs, cheeseburgers, chicken parmesan—even a "Pizza and Wings Party Pack," complete with celery, blue cheese and a Pepsi. The program goes beyond the old-fashioned prison commissary, with its cup-a-soups and bags of chips, and it can be quite lucrative for corrections departments.

"We have to be creative in tough fiscal times," said Edwin G. Buss, commissioner of Indiana's Department of Correction. But critics worry the service will trigger jealousies, promote unhealthy diets and coddle prisoners.

The service, launched in 2006 by food-service giant Aramark Corp., took off in the past two years amid the recession. Inmates—or, more often, their relatives—place orders on Aramark's "iCare" Web site. The company tailors its menus to each jail's rules.

Prices generally run $7 to $12 for a hot meal and $20 to $100 for a junk-food box filled with beef jerky, iced cookies, vanilla cappuccino or other goodies not available in the commissary.

The Indiana state prison system is on track to make more than $2 million this year on sales from the service. In San Antonio, Texas, the Bexar County jail, which makes 45 cents on every dollar in sales, projects its revenue could hit $500,000.

Revenue from the meals has saved prison programs, such as parenting classes, wardens say. And in some institutions, inmates get job-training credit for preparing the hot meals in the jail kitchen and packaging the junk-food boxes.

Plus, said Deputy Chief Debra Jordan, who runs detention programs in Bexar County, given the "very humble" quality of prison food, letting an offender's mom buy him a club sandwich now and then "is an act of kindness."

Critics, however, fear the deliveries will inspire envy, violence and extortion. "It's like with kids—you don't bring cookies to school unless you've got enough for everyone," said Gordon Crews, a criminal-justice professor at Marshall University.

Another concern: the most-popular special-order foods tend to be high in salt, fat or both. Overindulgence could lead to health problems and potentially raise taxpayer costs for inmate medical care.
While I can personally understand some of the concerns about this program, reality is jails need money to overcome financial hurdles in these lean economic times. If schools offer Sunkist and Funyuns in vending machines to 3rd graders, why shouldn't some poor inmate's Mom be able to send him a kite order of buffalo wings? Frankly, I don't see the controversy.

Yeah, jail's supposed to be bad. And guess what, even with an order of pizza and some breadsticks, jail is still bad. A guy's already gotta worry about getting shanked, or worse, anally raped in the shower [!!!]. Why not let him enjoy a cheeseburger and make the prison some money at the same time? Besides, anyone who watched The Wire knows what a well connected inmate can already get all sorts of stuff from the outside anyway, be it a chipped cell phone or a box of KFC.

Let the inmates have their jalapeno poppers.

Question: Is Jail CurryOut a good idea to help offset rising costs of imprisonment, or a bassackwards way of rewarding criminal behavior?

Jailbirds Order Up Hot Wings [WSJ]

[!!!] Shudders.

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