Food for thought: Prisoners should earn money to buy their own food

I was catching up on my magazine subscriptions this weekend and saw an letter written to American Cop in the May/June 2010 issue that really got me thinking.

A letter from Robert Phair in Ketchikan, Alaska had a really straightforward premise that I’m surprised no one has picked up on yet.

I’m going to post his letter in its’ entirety between the dash-lines and hope nobody minds too much…



I’d like to add my input to the current debate on the right to own an exercise machine, etc, (Return Fire Mar/Apr 2010). Anything a free man desires to buy or have as a result of his wealth or labor is okay as long as he, by doing so, doesn’t take away the similar rights of his fellow citizens.

Those who are rightfully incarcerated have, by definition, forfeited the right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Our jail inmates are even provided meals, at no cost, by the state. In Mexico, as I’m sure you know, one has to earn the money to buy his own food. I like that idea personally, as it teaches a citizen it’s his responsibility to earn his own living – a lesson apparently missed by most of those who wake up and find themselves in jail.

-Robert Phair, Ketchikan, Alaska”



This is brilliant.

I completely agree with Robert’s sentiments. Having prisoners work for their own food is no more “cruel and unusual” as any of us having to go to work every day so we can have something to eat when we get hungry.

Aside from the brilliant object lesson for each inmate, this idea would save each state thousands of dollars for each prisoner. If each meal costs $4, each prisoner every year costs $4,380 just to feed ($4 * 3 meals a day = $12. $12 * 365 = $4,380).

With 2,424,279 inmates in 2008, $4,380 * 2,424,279 comes out to $10,618,342,020!! $10.6 billion!!

I can think of a lot of things to spend $10.6 billion on.

Time to write the local state reps.

You can read back issues of American Cop by visiting their website and looking in the digital archive. The issue with Robert Phair’s letter is the May/June 2010 edition, page 11.

BTW, I think it’s very impressive that American Cop has their back issues online for everyone to read for free. You can also email, print, or PDF them all! I’ll be renewing my subscription just for that feature!

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