DOC able to keep feeding costs low
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)--The cash-strapped Oklahoma Department of Corrections has been able to offset the cost of feeding nearly 18,500 inmates daily because of an agricultural program that gives prisoners valuable skills, agency officials said.
In the past fiscal year, the agency's Agriculture Services unit has earned more than $888,000 in profit from the sale of agriculture products such as beef, firewood and pecans, according to a report given to the Board of Corrections on June 12.
Ken Klinger, who oversees the unit, told board members the agency's agriculture services not only makes a profit but gives inmates useful skills and occupies their time during incarceration.
"Making money on this is a side thing,'' Klinger said. "The true value of this program is that we work with inmates and give them skills and help the agency save money on its food costs.''
Using vegetables or meat raised and processed within the prison system allows the agency to better control its daily cost of feeding inmates, said Justin Jones, Corrections Department director. It costs the department $2.42 a day to feed inmates three meals a day, the fourth lowest figure in the country, Jones said.
Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina have lower daily rates for feeding inmates.
"I'd say we're feeding our inmates a little better,'' Jones said. Menus in the state's prison must be approved by a registered dietitian.
The state prisons' agriculture services unit has a budget of $10.6 million and includes dairy and beef cattle operations, a meat processing plant, gardens where vegetables are grown and a facility where those vegetables are processed and frozen for use later in the year or by other facilities.
Jones said while the unit makes a profit, its value is helping to keep food costs low.