Inmates to buy own meals, hunger strike planned to protest

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Inmates plan to go on hunger strike

PHOENIX - Tough economic times, according to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, prompted him to start charging the inmates for their meals.

He says his plan will save close to a million tax dollars. The meal charges do not start until January but inmates at the Durango Jail and Tent City are planning to protest the new fees Monday morning.

Maricopa County inmates have long complained about jail food. Inmates say when inspectors are there, portions and quality are fine but when inspectors leave, inmates say it becomes inedible.

Needless to say, the sheriff's new plan to have inmates pay $1.25 a day for their two meals is not going over well behind bars. One man, who 3TV will only identify as Frank is just out of jail. He says starting Monday the inmates will boycott their meals. He tells 3TV, "It's something they have to do to show they're upset."

The hunger strike, which is expected to last from one to three days, is earning the inmates little sympathy from the sheriff. Sheriff Arpaio tells 3TV, "If they don't want to eat, that's their problem, not my problem."

The money will come from the inmates' personal accounts, created from cash they had on them when they were arrested and money sent in by family members.

The sheriff says crimes committed by inmates came at a cost to society so charging for meals will help them start to repay their debt.

"I'm not changing the policy," the sheriff explains. "If they don't eat we'll save more money won't we?"

The sheriff says he now plans to go to the legislature and get permission to start charging inmates for their beds.