THE STUMP OCTOBER 22, 2011
What's for lunch today? In many Texas prisons, nothing. The Times had a remarkable story tucked inside Friday's paper noting that Rick Perry's administration has decided to stop serving lunch on Saturdays and Sundays in order to help deal with the state's budget troubles. Not serving lunch to 23,000 inmates is the better part of $2.8 million in prison-system savings being sought this year. The move is out of step with the standards of the American Correctional Association and puts Texas in fairly select company -- Ohio and Arizona also serve only two meals on weekends, while Georgia does the same Friday through Sunday, with an exception for inmates on work details. Weekend breakfast in Texas is from 5 to 7 a.m. and dinner's from 4 to 6:30 p.m. “I think it’s really easy to take things away from inmates,” Susan Fenner, executive director of the Texas Inmate Families Association, told the Times. “One inmate told me, for some of them, that’s all they have to look forward to is a meal.”
To put the savings from skipping lunch in perspective, consider the Texas Enterprise Fund, the taxpayer-funded account that Perry created in 2003 using the same rainy day fund that he refused to tap to close the state' budget shortfall this year. The Enterprise Fund has distributed $440 million in grants to major companies expanding operations in Texas. Many of the companies have contributed to Perry's campaigns; many have failed to produce nearly as many jobs as promised; and some have made clear they would have expanded even without the cash.
For instance, here is one recent grant that the Enterprise Fund gave out: $2.8 million to eBay, which the state says will create 1,050 jobs in Austin. "Here in Texas, we’ve created an environment that allows companies from all industries and of all sizes to grow and create jobs for Texans, thanks to our low taxes, reasonable and predictable regulatory climate, fair legal system and skilled workforce,” Perry said in announcing the grant in April -- the same month as the state decided to stop serving weekend lunches to the 23,000 men and women in its custody, thereby saving it exactly as much money as it paid out in one check to eBay.