PHOENIX -- There are a lot of ways to break the rules while serving time behind bars. But for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, desecrating the American flag means a unique punishment.
Arpaio put 38 inmates on a diet consisting only of water and a special bread after they defaced flags in their cells.
"You can have freedom of speech,” he said, “but you don’t go around defacing government property."
When inmates break the rules, they break the bread and only the bread, he said.
Prisoners make a bean and lentil mix that ultimately becomes a loaf of bread, one they say tastes like dog food.
The loaves might not be pleasant, but jail is not supposed to be pleasant, Arpaio said.
Peter Pilat, the head chef for the sheriff’s office’s food factory, said the loaves meet nutritional requirements.
"It’s all the vegetarian vegetables and soy that’s in their regular meals. We take a whole wheat bread dough, and we just put it all together," Pilat said.
Taxpayers don’t lose much. Across the country, each meal for an inmate costs an average of $5. But Arpaio said that in Maricopa County prisons, inmates receive two meals a day, each costing about 50 cents.
And though prisoners would like to see pizza and lasagna added to the menu, every meal is vegetarian.