Texas is all over the news this week. First, the state prisons stopped serving lunch on weekends, saying, “If they don’t like the menu they shouldn’t come here.” Maybe I’m a bleeding heart liberal, but I don’t think those people wanted to come there anyways, and now they have to get shanked on an empty stomach. Maybe some people, like Lawrence Russell Brewer, the white supremacist who was executed for the grisly death of James Byrd do deserve to suffer, but some people are in prison because they are poor, mentally ill, and addicted to drugs. Give them a bologna sandwich, for Christsakes. None of the articles mention diabetics, hypoglycemics and people who have to take medications with food.
Now Texas has abolished the last meal for men on death row. Why? Because of this extravagant meal:
“For TDCJ to allow inmate Brewer to order…two chicken fried steaks, a triple meat bacon cheeseburger, a cheese omelet, a large bowl of fried okra, three fajitas, a pint of Blue Bell ice cream and a pound of barbecue with half a loaf of white bread is ridiculous.”
Umm, really? My last meal would involve Petrossian caviar, Chilled crab claws, Animal’s foie gras with biscuits, Iron Chef Matsuhisa’s pork belly bao, and maybe a shrimp po’boy from Mother’s in New Orleans.
So how much does this extravagance cost? We will take Brewer’s meal as an example, although other reports add in items like candy, and he did not eat the meal — one reason for the ban. In 2010 Texas executed 333 or 335 prisoners, depending on whose count you trust. We will give them the benefit of the doubt and say 333. Now let’s look at a few Texas menus. The Avalon Diner, Norma’s and La Mexicana websites gave us the prices.
two chicken fried steaks 8.25 x2 = 17.
a triple meat bacon cheeseburger 7.99
a cheese omelet 7.25
a large bowl of fried okra 3.79
three fajitas 11.95×3 =35.85
a pint of Blue Bell ice cream (6.99 a half gallon)
a pound of barbecue (assuming it’s brisket, 7.50)
half a loaf of white bread (bread is about 2 bucks a loaf at the grocery store)
x 333 executed = 29, 427.21 a year for “last meals.”
According to the Death Penalty Information Center it costs $693,500 to prosecute and house one inmate for 40 years. In contrast, because of numerous appeals, “The regional public defender’s office estimates that just the legal costs for a death penalty case from indictment to execution are $1.2 million.”
Make that 1.2 million, 88 dollars and 37 cents.