Should jail inmates be able to eat better than most of us on the outside?
Time in jail comes with a guarantee: three square meals a day.
But those meals can't be just anything.
State rules require inmate meals to meet specific requirements. At least one meal each day has to be hot. And breakfast, lunch and dinner have to add up to a certain calorie count, with recommended amounts of grains and vegetables.
In the past two years, those recommendations have changed, adding whole grains to the list and increasing the amount of vegetables inmates are required to eat every day. School lunches have made similar shifts.
Those updates have come with a higher price tag, since whole grains and produce cost more.
You remember O. Henry's "The Cop and the Anthem" about the bum who kept trying to get arrested so he'll have a warm place to stay in the winter. (Text here.) Nowadays, we hear stories about people committing crimes so they can get costly prescriptions in jail. I don't know that anybody's tried to get in for the good grub, but anything's possible.
It's a debate-worthy topic how much we should do for those we incarcerate. Certainly we don't want to abuse them -- we can take away their freedom but still owe them their dignity. And there is a basic level of need we need to meet. But beyond that basic level, what should we give them? Easier access to a college education than many Americans? Medical care out of many people's price range? Better nutrition than we have? More cable channels than we can get?
As a general rule, I'd say we can stick closer to the basics for those in jail, since their confinement is shorter-term. No need to temporarily enrich their lives. A few weeks or months of baloney sandwiches ain't gonna kill them. We should do more for those in prison since we are depriving them of their freedom for a longer time.