In Some Illinois Prisons, Two Meals A Day

Sep 16, 2013

Credit flickr/meeshpants

More and more prisoners in Illinois are being served brunch, eating two meals a day instead of three. Prison officials say it's actually better for many inmates.

Feeding prisoners is a lot of work — not only cooking and cleaning up, but moving inmates from cells or dorms over to the mess hall.

Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer says at some prisons, breakfast is served at 4 a.m., which means moving inmates in the dark.

So it seems obvious that it would be easier on staff to only serve two meals instead of three. But Shaer says it can be better for inmates, too — it's a more conventional schedule, and the portions are bigger.

"We wouldn't do it if it was not going to work for everybody," Shaer says. "We're not in the business of creating aggravation; we're in the business of keeping the peace."

But the John Howard Association, an independent prison watchdog, cautions that in Ohio, a similar brunch program caused health problems among inmates who hadn't eaten enough to property digest their medication.

An official with AFSCME, the union that represents prison guards, says brunch is OK as long as it's properly staffed and there's enough food to meet inmates' dietary needs.

Brunch is already being served at Illinois River and Hill correctional centers. In the coming weeks, it'll be added at Western Correctional Center, and at Jacksonville after that.