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Here’s second course about inmate meals

“So what.”

That was my first thought when I read a front page article inthis newspaper last week that said food being served at the countyjail wasn’t exactly pleasing to the palates of the inmates.

“How dare they complain about anything.”

That was my second thought.

After visiting with Sheriff Lynn Boyte at the jail Wednesday, Inow know that I missed the point of the article. And, judging bycomments we received after the story ran, I think some other folksdid, too.

Sheriff Boyte did not take his concerns to the Lincoln CountyBoard of Supervisors simply because the inmates were griping. Theproblem is that the county is paying a catering service to feed theprisoners, and the service was not meeting its end of the deal.

In a nutshell: taxpayers were getting the short end of thestick.

The biggest problem seems to have been not having enough foodfor all the inmates. I wanted to sample (for a $1 charge)Wednesday’s lunch but decided not to after it looked like foodmight again come up short.

“We actually ran out of food two days,” Boyte said.

The food provider can’t always be faulted when there isn’tenough to go around. Nobody can except the criminals. The size ofthe inmate population fluctuates. If four or five suspects arebrought in between the time the food order is placed and when itarrives, it’s a problem.

The sheriff and some jail trustys I talked to said the size ofportions has also been an issue with the prisoners. Trustys areinmates who’ve earned the trust of law officers and get somespecial privileges — like getting out of their cells to work.These had picked up trash along a county road Wednesdaymorning.

“If somebody thinks they got less food than somebody else, lookout,” Boyte said. “If you put a cookie on one plate, you put acookie on them all.”

One trusty complained about that morning’s breakfast — twopieces of toast, a piece of sausage and “a spoonful” of oatmeal –being inadequate.

Think cookies aren’t important? Think oatmeal portions aren’timportant? Law requires that prisoners be fed a minimum of 2,000calories per day. Remember, there’s an attorney out there somewherejust looking for a reason to sue.

Wednesday’s lunch was ground beef-macaroni casserole, mixedvegetables, pear slices, bread and fruit punch. Nobody should thinkthat county prisoners are picking-and-choosing from a menu. Theyeat what the county provides or they don’t eat unless they havemoney to buy snacks from a vending machine.

I had a question for the trusty who didn’t like hisbreakfast:

You are here to pay a debt to society. You are here because youbroke the law. You are here at the expense of Lincoln Countytaxpayers. Do you think you have the right to complain about thefood?

“Yes,” he said. “We’re out working every day doing things forthe county. I do think we have a right to complain.”

Baloney sandwich.

Inmates deserve to be treated humanely, and the ones in LincolnCounty are. That’s plenty.

And, next chance you get, thank Sheriff Boyte for keeping awatch on your tax dollars. Lord knows he’s got plenty of otherthings to keep him busy.

Write to Nanette Laster at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39601, or send email to news@dailyleader.com