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Wis. Lawmakers Debate Cutting Prison Meals

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(credit: Jupiter Images)

(credit: Jupiter Images)

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STURTEVANT, Wis. (AP) – Today’s prison menu includes oatmeal for breakfast, hamburgers for lunch and chicken a la king for dinner.

In the future, one of those meals could be taken off the menu, leaving a brunch and dinner.

State Rep. Mark Radcliffe, a Democrat from Black River Falls, has proposed a bill that would reduce the number of meals served at prisons and jails to save money. Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said it is an idea worth consideration for the state budget.

John Paquin, warden at the Racine Correctional Institution in Sturtevant, said he has not taken a position on it. But he is concerned it could bring about some security issues.

Inmates look forward to getting out of their cells for meals and other activities, he said. If the meal schedule is changed, Paquin said some of the approximately 1,500 inmates in the correctional institute in Sturtevant could get edgy or testy. They could also protest by not going to meals, he said.

“One thing inmates are always concerned about is the food,” Paquin said. “It’s not like they can go down to the local McDonald’s,” he said.

Radcliffe also did not return a call for comment on his bill. But Vos, who is co-chairman of the state’s Joint Finance Committee, said the proposal is worth reviewing if it saves the state money.

“I don’t think being in prison guarantees you three meals a day,” Vos said. “There are very few days I eat three meals a day, and I get along … But at the same time we want to make sure people are adequately taken care of.”

Tim Le Monds, a spokesman with the Department of Corrections, said he does not know how much it would save and the department has not analyzed the impact of the proposed change. But he said it’s his understanding that the proposal would not reduce the number of calories that are offered. Those calories are based on federal nutritional guidelines, he said.

Le Monds also said the state made a meal change last fall which saved money without cutting breakfast.

Instead of having different meals at all the state correctional sites, they created a standardized meal rotation schedule for all state correctional institutions. The change consolidated food ordering for approximately 30 different state facilities and saved money by ordering in bulk, Le Monds said. It started in fall, and Le Monds said it has already saved the state about $2 million.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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