Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Texas Says Death Row Inmates Deserve Healthier Last Meals

HUNTSVILLE, Texas – The execution of Lawrence Brewer has reignited the controversy about the last meals traditionally served to inmates on death row. Mr. Brewer, forty-four, was executed in the Texas State Penitentiary last night for killing a handicapped black man thirteen years ago by dragging him from the back of a pick-up truck.

Before his execution Mr. Brewer requested a last meal that would have brought Adam Richman to grief: two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, a cheese omelet, a large bowl of fried okra, three chicken fajitas, a pound of barbecue with half a loaf of white bread, and a pint of Blue Bell ice cream. That’s close to seven thousand calories, a figure that got the attention of the American College of Nutrition (ACN).

“It’s never too late to begin healthy eating,” said William P. Elias, M.D., recording secretary of the ACN. “We believe an inmate’s last meal should not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Mr. Brewer should have been served a light, balanced meal that would not have placed a burden on his digestive system.”

The movement to reform last meals began on February 17, 2005, with the execution of Dennis Wayne Bagwell in the Texas State Penitentiary. Mr. Bagwell had been convicted of murdering his half sister, her four-year-old daughter, and two other women. His last meal consisted of a steak, medium rare with A1 Sauce, three fried chicken breasts, three fried chicken thighs, BBQ ribs, a large order of french fries, a large order of onion rings, a pound of fried bacon, a dozen scrambled eggs with onions, fried potatoes with onions, sliced tomatoes, a salad with ranch dressing, two hamburgers with everything, peach pie or cobbler, ketchup, salt, pepper, milk, coffee, and iced tea with real sugar.

“We need to save some of these inmates from themselves,” declared David T. Goff, vice president of the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. “No one should eat a heavy meal before going to sleep. That flies in the face of accepted nutritional wisdom.”

Opponents of the traditional last meal complain that the majority of such meals are “heart attacks on a plate.” They also argue that nutritional information should be provided with all last meals, so that condemned prisoners “know what they’re getting themselves into.”

Immediately following the execution of Mr. Brewer—who didn’t even touch his final meal, asking for a doggie bag instead—Texas State Senator John Whitmire wrote to the state department of criminal justice regarding Mr. Brewer’s last supper. Obviously sensitive to Texas’ reputation for its extravagant last meals, Mr. Whitmire asked the department to “end this practice immediately” or he would end it “by statute next session.”

Brad Livingston, executive director of the department, agreed: “Senator Whitmire’s concerns regarding the practice of allowing death row inmates to choose their last meals are valid. Prisoners’ eyes are frequently bigger than their stomachs. Therefore, effective immediately last meals will be restricted to 3,500 calories. Moreover they must contain balanced portions of proteins, vegetables, fruit, and carbohydrates.

In related news, presidential candidate and Texas governor Rick Perry heatedly denied during last night’s presidential debate in Orlando that he had allowed a retarded person about to be executed to order his last meal.

“I did not knowingly allow that man to choose two pounds of gummy worms, a pineapple soda, and a pound of M&Ms with all the orange pieces removed.”    

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