Special religious meals increase food costs for state prisons

Individual meals cost three to four times as much as general population meals, according to prison officials. Other costs include extra time needed to prepare them.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Staff Writer zcampfield@opubco.com Published: June 3, 2012

Variances by day and by facility make it difficult to quantify the impact of halal meals on the Oklahoma Department of Corrections budget.

Department spokesman Jerry Massie estimated halal meals cost three to four times more than meals served to the state's general prison population.

The department spent about $15.7 million on food last fiscal year, before it adopted its new halal menu procedures; it's projected to spend $17.3 million on food costs this fiscal year.

That's a daily food cost average of $2.39 last year and $2.61 this year, but the department is also averaging 100 more inmates per day this year, Massie said.

Systemwide, $2.44 cents is budgeted per inmate per day for food costs, with a total of 1.62 million meals served to 18,000 inmates each month. About 2 percent of those meals are halal.

Facility spending decisions are made on the facility level, Massie said.

Terry Crenshaw, warden's assistant at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, said halal meals make a big dent in the food budget over the course of time.

Crenshaw said that facility averages around $3 per inmate per day for food costs, but as much as $15 per halal meal each day. Of about 950 total inmates at McAlester, seven subscribe to halal meals, he said.

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