OPINION: Jail Flubdubs and Fryers

Saline County’s 2021 budget will be discussed during the County Commission’s Tuesday June 30th meeting.  The budget includes a $20,000 “equipment” purchase for the “Sheriff’s Office/Jail” for a fryer.

Back in 2015, I saw a deep fat fryer in the jail’s kitchen.  Through an “open records” request, I saw menus that included “hamburgers/French fries” and “super nachos”.  I was told these menu items were especially popular.

Because of safety concerns, it is not unusual for the price of small pieces of “correctional food service equipment” to approximate that of an economy car.  Screws can be removed and turned into shanks, so alternatives must be used.  A fryer is also a most dangerous pieces of kitchen equipment in that an individual can accidentally fry “an arm” or knock over a vat of hot grease.

Two decades ago, schools removed deep fat fryers from their cafeterias in favor of offering healthier alternatives.  Most recently, we’ve all likely reduced our intake of fried foods as restaurants were shuttered and self-serve donut displays disappeared.

A few years ago, then County Commissioner Dave Smith advocated feeding inmates “stale bread and carrots”.  Such radical views did little to advance discussions about reducing the jail population.

I’m for offering inmates five servings of fruits/vegetables per day and nutritionally balanced meals.  But I’d urge the Commission to rethink the deep fat fryer.

President Abraham Lincoln reportedly urged his spendthrift wife Mary to limit her purchase of “flubdubs”.  When the proposed 2014 jail had a cost of $27 million, and the 2020 “greenfield” proposal has a price tag of $89.65 million, one has to wonder just how many flubdubs are planned.  The 2021 budget contains some equipment purchases that would likely be moved to a new facility, if voters approve the measure in November.

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Opinion piece written by Karen Shade of Salina