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Published: Saturday, 12/31/2011

Got milk? Prisoners won't at Summit County's jail


AKRON -- Milk will be off the menu in the new year at one of the state's big urban jails, as Ohio counties continue to look for budget savings in what they serve to inmates.

Starting Sunday, inmates at the Summit County jail in Akron who want milk instead will be offered a powdered breakfast drink that's mixed with water.

"I drank it myself and it tastes like a vanilla milkshake," jail administrator Gary James said. "It's actually pretty good."

The change is expected to save about $10,000 a year at the jail, which has more than 600 inmates. The county must find creative ways to cut costs to avoid having to lay off workers, Mr. James said.

Neighboring Stark County cut back on milk at its jail more than three years ago and has saved about $62,000 annually, according to county sheriff's department officials in Canton.

A county commissioner had fought the move, saying it made Stark County seem like a third-world country. But the decision was a "no-brainer," said sheriff's Chief Deputy Michael McDonald, adding that he didn't feel much sympathy for the inmates.

"These people aren't making sure their children have milk, so I don't care if they have milk," Chief Deputy McDonald said.

Other county jails in Ohio have trimmed budgets by cutting out inmate coffee or substituting less expensive foods. Last summer, the Franklin County sheriff in Columbus cut seconds on meat and announced inmates would no longer be served pricier items such as cabbage rolls and stuffed peppers.

Dropping milk is a "big cost saver" because money is wasted when it spoils and has to be thrown out, said Fred Wilson, director of operations for the Alexandria, Va.-based National Sheriffs' Association.

"It's happening all over the country off and on," Mr. Wilson said. "There's not this huge wave coming on. But it's something [sheriffs] are looking at as they are getting more cost-conscious."

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