— In addition to making sure that inmates' meals have good nutritional value, food service tries to make them appealing enough that they'll be eaten. "Especially our juveniles," says Mathews. "You can give them spinach and peas, and you're meeting all their nutritionals. But are they going to eat it?

"We make an attempt to please as many people as we can. Inmates that are happy with their food are less apt to riot or beat up on their cellmates. And that helps prevent lawsuits and saves money for the taxpayer."

Mathews continues, "You and I have no right to three meals a day, nutritionally balanced, and free medical and dental care. We have to pay for all that. But when you commit a crime in this state, you have the right to all of this stuff as well as clean clothes and showers."

Among detention personnel, stories go around about inmates losing important services when they leave jail. There's the one about the prostitute who became irate at being released right before she was scheduled to receive a set of false teeth at taxpayer expense. "She seemed to think that we owed her," says Mathews, who also tells of a man who had been on the jail's kidney dialysis machine. "And when he left," she says, "after a couple of weeks, he was finding it difficult to get dialysis. So he committed a small crime, a misdemeanor. We only booked and released him. He said, 'I've got to have my dialysis. What do I have to do to get back in here?' "

The man decided to rob a liquor store with a toy gun, but employees in the store were able to force him outside. So the man climbed onto the roof and tried to enter the building through an airshaft. In the effort he fell and broke his leg. But, says Mathews, "he did get his wish, because he came to jail on an armed-robbery charge and got his dialysis.

"Some people treat this as part of their life," Mathews explains. "They come in and out all the time, and we get to know them well. As they age or go through drug problems, we get them when they're very debilitated. But after they've been with us for a while, we beef them up, they start feeling better, and then go back on the street."

Once a female inmate wrote a note paying food services a great compliment. According to Mathews, the note read, " 'I've been in and out of your establishment several times. Every time, I've had your cream of broccoli soup and I love it. I've been here now three weeks and I haven't had it yet. When can I expect it?' I wrote back, 'Right now we've got cream of asparagus. But if you stick around long enough, or on your next trip in, we should have it back.' And she thanked me."

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