Ill. inmates dine on steak, shrimp as prison staff works without pay

While prison staff is going without pay, inmates continue to collect their government paychecks for prison jobs


Chris Pastrick
The Tribune-Review

PEKIN, Ill. — Over Christmas and New Year’s, inmates at dozens of federal prisons ate like kings in front of staffers who continued to work without pay amid the partial government shutdown.

NBC News reports the ironic scene played out at FCI Pekin prison in Illinois, where inmates were treated to a meal of steak and shrimp on New Year’s Day. In Minnesota, prisoners got chicken wings. And Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, they dined on Cornish hen and Boston Creme pie.

Joe Rojas told NBC News that inmates mocked staffers at the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, Fla. while they enjoyed a New Year’s Day lunch that included grilled steak, garlic macaroni biscuits and holiday pies.

“They are getting a lavish meal and we are working the holidays away from our families wondering if we can pay the rent or make it home,” Rojas said.

While prison staffers are going without pay, inmates continue to collect their government paychecks for prison jobs, like cooking meals, painting buildings, and yard work.

“You’re giving a gift to somebody who committed a crime, but yet you won’t pay the people who are supervising them?” Sandy Parr, a worker at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., told NBC. “It’s frustrating and maddening.”

NBC News reports many of the 36,000 employees at federal prisons were told they had to cut vacations short or risk losing wages or possible suspensions.

In a statement, the Bureau of Prisons told NBC News holiday meals are “planned weeks in advance, including as happened here in advance of the government shutdown.” They said the meals are served on holidays to “promote morale for the inmate population because they are separated from their families.”

Even so, workers like June Bencebi, a case manager at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, are frustrated.

“A lot of the staff were upset over the fact that we don’t know where our next meal is going to come, and these inmates were served so much food they were able to get on the serving line twice,” Bencebi said.

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©2019 The Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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