Inmates at Estrella Jail on hunger strike

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Some inmates at the Estrella Jail are on a hunger strike.

It started when Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio introduced a new, all-vegetarian menu. The main courses are mainly soy products, which is a money-saver.

Arpaio said his office is saving a half a million dollars because they're taking some milk away.

Inmates have likened their meals to dirt, dog food and dog excrement.

"I'm really tired of all these complaints," Arpaio said.
He said there's a reason behind his new menu and if the inmates don't like it, they shouldn't have reason to be behind the fence.

"They ought to shut up and eat what they have," he said.

Some of the women at the Estrella Jail are protesting the new fare, including Jennifer Robles, who said she's going to be on the hunger strike until she goes to prison in two weeks.

"I cannot wait to go to prison, just for the food," Robles said.

Others genuinely appreciate the food and don't plan to participate in the hunger strike.

"No, I'm going to keep eating because I'm hungry," one inmate said.

Another said she really likes the food.

For the inmates who do hold to the hunger strike, there's not much detention officers can do. They can't force the women to eat, although the sheriff's office doesn't approve of the protest.

It costs the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office less than a buck a day to feed each inmate. On average around the United States, it costs $4 to $5 a day.