Benton County Jail To Continue Serving Cold Meals To Inmates

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BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) -  The Benton County Jail is going to keep serving cold meals to inmates, after officials found out they don't have enough money in their budget to switch to hot meals.

Officials said inmates in the Benton County Jail are some of the only ones in the state of Arkansas to get all three meals---breakfast, lunch and dinner---served cold.

"I'ts food," said Keshia Guyll, with the Benton County Sheriff's Office. "Would I want to eat it every day? Probably not. But, you know, this is a jail. They are here for a reason."

The Benton County Sheriff's Office recently had their food distributor write a proposal to find out how much hot meals would cost.

"We wanted people to know that this isn't just solely a punitive measure, serving inmates cold food," Guyll said. "There's other things that go along with that, and like I said, budget is one of the main ones."

Guyll said she hopes members of the public look at the proposal and realize why it's difficult for jails to find the money to serve hot food.

"In doing that proposal, it shows what it costs to serve cold food versus what it's going to cost to serve hot food," she said. "Hopefully, it will help the citizens understand a little bit better why we don't do it. It's just not feasible."

If the Benton County Jail were to go from serving cold meals to hot meals, they would need new equipment. That would come at a price tag of between $30,000 and $40,000, Guyll said.  Food costs would add another $100,000.

"Recently we've been asked by the Quorum Court to come up with a way we can cut our budget," Guyll said. "That's not a big thing to ask. There's creative ways to do that. However, being asked to cut our budget and it costing approximately $30,000 to $40,000  just to get the equipment needed to serve hot meals, is just not feasible."

Guyll continued, "The sheriff is not ready to ask the citizens of Benton County to spend more in their taxes to serve the inmates hot meals."

Jorge Keene, a booking sergeant, has worked in the jail for four years. He said all meals are designed by a registered dietitian.

"Surely they are going to get tired of it if they are here for an extended period of time, but nutrition-wise, it's what they need," he said. "They get a certain amount of calories every day. You are always going to have the guys that come in here and complain and whine about it. More often than not, you don't hear much about it."

"We meet all health code requirements and they are fed accordingly," Guyll said. "With our food being designed by a registered dietitian, we go above what the standard is. I want to say it's around 2,300 calories a day. Our inmates get about 2,700."

It's not a requirement for county jails in Arkansas to serve hot meals.  So, even though hot meals are not in the plans for Benton County now, Guyll said they could be in the future.

"If the laws change and the rules change to where they mandate that county jails serve hot food, we will absolutely do that," she said.


  • John

    You know what might save even more money? Not putting so many dang people in jail, especially for non-violent misdemeanors like failure to pay fines and cost when the citizen/ inmate genuinely has no ability to pay.

    • Ishmail Dentor

      John, don’t you think that instead of whining about people having to pay fines that they “can’t afford” maybe you should be wondering why they did a crime and got put in jail in the first place. There are ways, in most states, for the criminal to work off the fines by doing work for the community. While I don’t know if that is in place for Arkansas, I would suggest, basically, if they don’t want to pay fines or do jail time, DON’T DO THE CRIME. While I understand your concern for your fellow man, I am personally getting tired of the criminal having more rights than the honest, law abiding citizen.

  • Alexis

    I should feel sympathy for the inmates having to eat cold meals, but I do not. My reason is this, we have elderly and children that deal with that daily. Often times, breakfast & lunch at school are the ONLY meals that a child eats each day. For our elderly, committing a crime & have the county or state pay for their meds, as “3 hots & a cot” would be better than having to choose between staying warm/cool, medicine and food. It’s sad when our inmates in county and state facilities are treated better than our children and elderly.

  • 918ter

    When she was showing the county jails kitchen there were industrial pots and stove surfaces ??? Soooo… what seems to be the problem ? Use them .

  • My .02 worth

    Good for them, if they want a hot meal then don’t get arrested and you can eat at home whatever and whenever you want. Not only do we have elderly and children dealing with cold meals daily but there are also plenty of them that deal with no meals, missed meals every day. The didn’t break the law and still go hungry, it’s just a sad statement that we make sure prisoners get better treatment that our children and elderly.

  • Triamrider

    So your saying that they are paying a dietician not to cook? The article was a little unclear who or from where the meals are coming from. My thought is take the trustees into the kitchen and let them cook.

  • sonia

    Cant blame the jails for giving them cold meals. They should have to be made to be out on the side of the road with push mowers, weedeaters, trashbags cleaning. Or some type of work instead laying in bed all day doing nothing waiting for the day they get out. I believe if the states was to become more strict on the prisoners as to make them work hard for 12 hrs a day then alot of them wouldnt want to return due to working. Regular salary needs to be paid but they should not see a dime, their earnings should go to pay fines, court cost and anyback child support that is owed. These people that return to jail all the time have to much time on thier hands.

    • T

      Pay back child support? No way! That would mean tax payer money goes to a baby mom’s with an idiot baby daddy in jail. No deal. How bout these folks get a real job pay their own child support and hot meals. And stay the check outta jail!

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