Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Michigan's prisons to go coffeeless

15. February 2005 • Murph
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From the Freep, Michigan prisoners’ free coffee on the chopping block:

In an effort to save $250,000 this year, inmates in state prisons and people in boot camps and correctional centers won’t be able to get free coffee after March 1, Corrections Department spokesman Russ Marlan said Monday.

Marlan said inmates still will be able to buy instant coffee at prison stores, but he didn’t know how much they will charge for it.

“We’re looking at everything that can reduce costs without jeopardizing public safety,” Marlan said. “There is no nutritional value to coffee.”

The state pays $2.50 to feed an inmate three meals a day, or a little more than $120,000 for the state’s 48,600 inmates, Marlan said.

Critics stop short of calling this cruel and unusual punishment:

Barbara Levine is the executive director of the prison advocacy group Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Safety. She said eliminating free coffee in state prisons shows that state officials are looking in the wrong places to reduce spending.

Levine said the state could save more money by cutting down on the number of inmates behind bars after serving minimum sentences and reducing sentences for people who violate conditions of parole.

“When you start saving money on prisoner meals, you’re really setting a precedent of looking at the small things,” she said. “It is a little thing, but it’s also the wrong sort of thing. It’s a patchwork kind of thing.”