Saturday, October 16, 2010

No. 6374866 could I take your dinner order?

Porridge à la carte: Minister says inmates should have choice of FIVE dishes for dinner

Last updated at 4:21 AM on 16th October 2010
Prisoners must be given a choice of at least five different dishes for dinner, it emerged last night.
Under new rules – quickly dubbed ‘Porridge à la Carte’ – inmates will be presented with a menu from which to select their desired meal from the five on offer.
Governors must change the menu regularly to ensure the same options do not appear more than once a month.
Options: Prisoners will be able to choose from an extended menu - and this plan has been blasted in many quarters
Options: Prisoners will be able to choose from an extended menu - and this plan has been blasted in many quarters
The order dictating the changes even insists that prisoners are ‘consulted’ about the quality of meals served. 
Prisons minister Crispin Blunt, who previously gave the go-ahead for Halloween and Christmas parties for inmates, is responsible for prisoner food rules.
Critics described the regulations as ‘lunacy’. The rules, issued by the Ministry of Justice and sent to every jail in England and Wales, came into force on October 1 but were only published yesterday.
Diktats include that drug addicts trying to get clean should be given hot chocolate because it is ‘comforting’.
'No one would deny inmates a decent meal, but this is just ridiculous.' 
New inmates must be given an arrival pack containing tea and coffee, sweets and cigarettes.
And late arrivals – such as newly-sentenced prisoners – must be given a hot meal even if they arrive at the prison after all the other inmates have eaten.
Fiona McEvoy, campaign manager at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘While many ordinary, law-abiding taxpayers struggle for cash and brace themselves for cuts in services, these convicts are getting five-star treatment on the public purse. 
‘The amount of effort and planning going into these menus is just insulting – it seems criminals are being fed better than patients, school children and the elderly in many cases.
‘No one would deny inmates a decent meal, but this is just ridiculous.’
Tory MP Douglas Carswell added: ‘Surely we should be giving individual prison governors control over meals and letting them see what works and what gets results?
‘Why are we trying to micro-manage the prison service from the centre, right down to the amount of gravy and type of vegetables prisoners have for their meals? It’s lunacy.’
The edict follows a bizarre speech by Mr Blunt last month in which he said inmates should be served perfectly-sized and shaped apples to prevent ‘fruit riots’. 
Typical menu prisoners will be able to choose from
He told the House of Commons that ‘undersize’ fruit handed out at jail canteens could create ‘issues of order and control’.
‘It is worth remembering that discontent about the quality of food, changes to menus and failure to deliver what was previously promised have been known to be the catalyst for serious disturbances,’ he said.
‘An undersize apple handed out at the servery will create issues of order and control, so we use suppliers that are sensitive to that need and that use their sourcing ability to maintain consistency from their supply base.’ 
Mr Blunt provoked outrage within weeks of his appointment by lifting a ban on taxpayer-funded prisoner parties and comedy workshops for high security inmates. 
The MP for Reigate – who is the uncle of actress Emily Blunt – was swiftly slapped down by Downing Street, and the decision reversed the following day.
He was slapped down again after he said criminals could get their jail sentences slashed if they said sorry.
And there was further outrage when it emerged that newly-released prisoners are being offered free mobile phones in a taxpayer-funded ‘welcome pack’ when they arrive at bail hostels.
The ‘Catering – Meals for Prisoners’ section in Prison Service Instruction number 44/2010 states: ‘A multi-choice minimum five choices, pre-select menu including a minimum of one substantial hot meal choice per day will be provided for the lunch time or evening meal.’ Food must meet the ‘cultural, nutritional and diversity needs’ of inmates, the order states. 
It adds: ‘The menu provides information which enables prisoners to make decisions about their menu choice. The menu cycle will be for a minimum of four weeks.
‘Prisoners are consulted about and can make comments on the catering provision.’
Officials said each menu would include a hot meal, a cold meal, a vegetarian option and one that is free of dairy products. 

Every menu must also include a halal meal that complies with the Islamic code on how animals should be slaughtered. 
Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘At a time when the Government is looking for ways to save money it’s quite extraordinary that the only people who look like they are going to be better off are prisoners. As far as I’m concerned it’s absolutely unacceptable and I think the public will be outraged.’
Although many prisons already offer a wide choice at mealtimes, it is thought to be the first time the five choices have been set in stone by ministers.
A Prison Service spokesman said: ‘The choice of meals that are available to prisoners reflect both religious and medical requirements, including halal, dairy free and vegetarian options. In practice this means a number of prisoners only have one choice.’

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