Just desserts? Jail inmates eat cake, cookies, brownies on taxpayers' dime

Posted at: 03/25/2014 5:50 PM
Updated at: 03/25/2014 6:19 PM
By: Steve Flamisch

ALBANY – Dessert is included with every meal served at the Albany County Jail. On Tuesday, inmates had a brownie with lunch, and a sugar cookie with dinner.

The treats are part of a 2,900-calorie nutritional plan approved by a registered dietitian, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple told NewsChannel 13.

"It's not mandated that we give them a dessert, but it's recommended that we supply X-amount of calories," Apple said. "In order to meet that, the dessert fits into the plan."

Each cake slice, cookie, or brownie costs about $0.06. Served twice daily to approximately 800 inmates, the desserts are costing county taxpayers about $35,000 per year.

Apple noted the baked goods are prepared in house – "It’s not like we’re going out and buying Grandma’s Pies" – and constitute only a fraction of the jail’s $40 million yearly budget.

Rensselaer County provides the occasional cake slice, cookie, or pudding, plus ice cream on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but a spokeswoman did not have a cost breakdown.

Saratoga County provides cake, cookies, or pudding every day, but the new sheriff has ordered a review of the menu to find savings. A senior officer did not have a cost breakdown.

Schenectady County provides a daily apple or pineapple crisp, or pudding, the undersheriff said. At a cost of $0.15 per serving, the desserts are costing county taxpayers $17,000 per year.

And then there is Warren County, where the jail inmates receive no dessert. Sheriff Bud York told NewsChannel 13, that’s as it should be.

"No cookies, no cake, no ice cream," York said. "No coffee. We took coffee away a few years back. It was costing the county taxpayers $12,000 per year to buy coffee for them."

Inmates can use their own money to buy dessert from the jail commissary, York said. He added that his responsibility is to ensure every cent of taxpayer money is spent wisely.

The approximately 54,000 inmates in New York’s state prisons receive one dessert per day, a spokesman said. He did not have a breakdown of how much the treats cost.