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Clemency changes little at Menard
January 13, 2003--Employees arrive and leave the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois, two days after Gov. George Ryan commuted all the death row inmates sentences. Menard had about 60 death row inmates. (P-D file photo)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. • The weekend dining schedule is about to change for thousands of Illinois prison inmates.

As part of an effort to cut costs, the Illinois Department of Corrections is planning to eliminate breakfast in most of the lockups on weekends and holidays.

Instead, inmates will get brunch — a combination of lunch and breakfast, minus the Bloody Marys and mimosas, of course.

Corrections chief Tony Godinez outlined the change to members of a House panel this week, saying it will save an estimated $2.5 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

He said many inmates are already skipping the early morning breakfast call, resulting in wasted food and wasted effort by prison kitchen workers. Combining breakfast and lunch later in the morning will streamline prison operations.

"Nobody wants to get up at 5 a.m. to eat," Godinez said.

The plan is just one money-saving proposal being mulled by prison officials as they grapple with a budget plan that could cut spending on the massive prison system by more than 9 percent.

Along with closing prisons in Dwight and Tamms, Gov. Pat Quinn wants to close all but one of the system's adult transition centers, which serve as halfway houses for inmates who are about to be released from prisons.

Budget cuts also will eliminate many of the substance abuse programs and vocational education classes designed to help inmates avoid returning to prison once their sentences are completed.

The two-meal system on weekends is not new. Ohio and Georgia are among other states that went with brunch to help save money. Under the new plan, which will affect only nonmaximum-security prisons, Godinez predicts an increase in inmate participation.

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