Room service canceled at Cook Co. Jail

March 18, 2010 10:51:17 AM PDT
Perhaps inmates aren't very hungry, or the food simply isn't appetizing. Either way, the Cook County sheriff estimates his staff throws away nearly $1 million worth of food every year.

The solution: Cancel "room service" for nearly 3,000 Cook County Jail inmates and make them go to the cafeteria if they want to eat.

Breakfast is served to inmate cells and dormitories at 4:30 a.m. each day.

"Few are up at that hour, so their trays sit there," said sheriff's spokesman Steve Patterson. "It's not unusual to see untouched food and trays by the thousands in our garbage."

Jail staff plan to now only serve breakfast for minimum and medium security inmates in dining halls. They expect two-thirds of the eligible inmates will simply decide to skip breakfast and wait for lunch, which is served at 10:30 a.m., leading to the cost savings.

Also on Thursday, Sheriff Tom Dart announced a plan to start having inmates do their own laundry. The jail expects to save $750,000 by assigning inmates to new laundry work details instead of having a private contractor do the wash.