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Meatless prison menu ploy provokes comic relief

As a columnist, sometimes there’s just no way to swing and miss with some ideas that present an irresistible mix of incredulity and ridiculousness. Such came our way when Hollywood personality Pamela Anderson made cuisine recommendations to the Louisiana Department of Corrections.

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals spokeswoman Anderson, who now eschews meat but some years ago didn’t mind a helping or two of it, with her organization apparently got wind of the state’s budgetary difficulties and magnanimously informed Gov. John Bel Edwards that he the state could save some dough by having its imprisoned population go vegan. No doubt the governor’s eyes popped out more than usual when he saw the estimated savings in the neighborhood of $620,000 and, perhaps had not the DOC counseled otherwise, he would have gone scurrying to legislative leaders proclaiming this bonanza would end all difficulties.

In fact, according to the DOC, “While there may be some offenders who wouldn’t mind the change, let’s just say that any savings realized from the switch to vegan would easily be surpassed by the extensive damage caused to our facilities by those not so appreciative of the idea,” with that response thereby throwing cold water on her gracious idea to come and cook a vegan meal herself for the guys and gals behind bars. Just as well; the response made no mention of the inevitable rioting that would occur should she do that, for example at Angola, given the relative deprivation in the air, with most if not all of Angola’s male inmates having not seen a female of her physique in some time, if ever in their lives.

A change made at Maricopa Co., AZ inspired her request both to demonstrate and to forward the idea. Of course, when breaking down the numbers, her advice would save the state nearly 5 cents a prisoner a day (although at the end of 2015 only half of the state headcount then served time in state facilities, so perhaps the figure she recited applied just those under state supervision, which jacks the figure up to 9 cents a day or 3 cents a meal). Still, anything endorsed by the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America” Joe Arpaio deserves at least a passing look.

Arpaio argued that while cost considerations helped, it also offered a healthy diet. This advantage magnifies when applied to Louisiana, whose populace particularly enjoy their heart-stopping, calorie-maximizing fare. Perhaps he left unmentioned that a shift to this menu by the constantly coming-and-going short-term inmates that comprise his jailed population for the durations as guests of the county likely for some interval creates more lassitude among them as they adjust to eating it, if they don’t revert to childhood and refuse to eat their greens.

Consider, however, that Angola’s denizens and others who makes their homes in Louisiana pens typically reside there for years, if not decades, so the lethargy would wear off in short order as soon enough the starving choke down anything. And even if the threat of forcibly eating vegan might deter lawbreakers, given the meat-centric Louisiana diet an enterprising con might well succeed in taking the issue to court and having it declared a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

One final consideration deserves notice: the meat-and-potatoes diet drove the evolution of the human brain, and while promoting brain health among those incarcerated for extended periods of time might stimulate intellectual activity geared towards criminality, at the same time many of these prisoners will finish their sentences and not fall into recidivism when they return to the community, potentially siring or bearing children as well. PETA may make audacious claims about the lack of necessity of eating meat to remain healthy, but it cannot deny that to do so robs future generations of more brainpower.

On balance, then, the proposal generates more laughs than seriousness, but at least it provides comic relief to the depressing budgetary picture.

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