Officials in Mount Holly Springs recently debated the merits of using money from the general fund to reimburse borough departments the costs of providing lunches to prison inmates.
The borough sometimes uses inmates from the Cumberland County prison as a labor force for projects involving the public works department and water/sewer authority.
In the past, borough employees have provided the inmates with hot food prepared in crockpots or with drinks and subs purchased from a local store or eatery.
The food provided is in addition to a bagged lunch prepared and issued to each inmate by Aramark, the food service contractor hired by the county.
Council members in mid-November voted 5-2 in favor of reimbursing the departments, but agreed to have Borough Manager Tom Day set a dollar limit. Councilmen Edgar Kendall and Matthew Hockley voted against the motion.
Aramark has a dietician on duty that makes sure each prison inmate receives a set count of 3,000 calories daily, Kendall said. He said each bagged lunch totals 895 calories and consists of two meat and cheese sandwiches and a piece of fruit.
“That’s about what I take for my lunch,” Kendall said. “I honestly think that’s adequate. A lot of the inmates have families that bring money in.
“What about the victims?” he said. “Some of these guys created harm and destruction. They’re supposed to be in punishment because of what they did and now we are trying to accommodate them. The way I see it you are rewarding them.”
When asked about his vote following the meeting, Hockley said he once served in the military. “I was told when to eat and what to eat,” he said. “I didn’t get any special treatment or something extra. They are in prison for a reason. They are filling their debt to society.”
Those voting in favor of the motion were council president James Collins II, vice president Leroy Shildt and members Pamela Still, Lois Stoner and Deborah Halpin-Brophy.
“Last year we had a big snow,” Shildt said of the inmates. “Some of those guys were working their tails off when it was cold.” He said it would be “on the rough side” not to provide them with a warm sandwich or a cup of coffee.
Mayor P. Scott Boise said four slices of bread and some lunch meat would not cut it for him if he was standing out on borough streets clearing snow and “freezing my butt off.”
Day, who also works as the borough police chief, said the inmates sent to the borough are mostly those serving time for minor offenses including DUI, driving while under suspension and failing to pay child support.
“We are not getting murderers or major criminals,” Shildt said.
“I am not saying you are,” Kendall responded.
Shildt said the inmates do not have to come to the borough to work off their obligations to society. “If they don’t come here, we are going to have to hire someone else and that is a lot more expensive than a couple of prisoners coming out here and working,” Shildt said.
Day said he once saw a group of inmates shovel and dig out rocks and boulders from inside a 92-foot-long trench. “To buy them a sub and a drink for lunch ... something that fills them up ... is the least we can do,” Day said.