Amy B. Smoyer, PhD

Incarcerated Lives, Health & Social Work

Egg McMuffins in Lock Up

This sash belongs to Melissa from DC - you go girl!
I was Girl Scout for many, many years - I like to think I still am! - and I loved it.  My favorite part was earning the badges.  Flipping through the big Girl Scout book with the blue and white cover, deciding which one to go for next. Reviewing the tasks. Taking on the challenge. Trying to learn something new, build my skills set. Competing with the other girls.  Kind of explains the whole PhD thing, huh?

We went on some great field trips, too.  Once, we visited Washington D.C. where we slept on bunk beds in an army barracks.  Spent the night playing tag in the hallways. Even better than this trip to our nation's capital was the guided tour of a McDonald's in downtown Boston.  I will never forget the thrill of seeing the counter from the other side.  Walking through the back kitchen areas, surrounded by busy workers and sizzling fries.  And can you imagine my surprise when I learned the eggs for Egg McMuffins were cooked in muffin tins?  So that's how they come out so perfectly round!  Who knew?  That McDonald's trip is one of the strongest and most lasting memories of my childhood. (A fact I'm sure my parents will be thrilled to learn.  Don't worry, I remember some other stuff, too.)

While I can vividly remember the poached eggs popping out of the muffin-like tins, I don't think I have ever eaten an Egg McMuffin.  At least I can't remember ever eating one, which means either I haven't or that I found the food unremarkable.  Still, I think if I spent the night in police lock-up and was handed an Egg McMuffin and hot coffee in the morning, I would find it pretty delicious. Especially, if I had been homeless, on the streets and using crack for the last week or so.  Which brings me, in a rather roundabout way, to the subject of today's blog...

People who have been arrested in CT can spend anywhere from a few hours to a few days in police lock-up, depending on what time and day they get picked up. Court is most weekday mornings, so Friday afternoon is basically your worst case scenario. Food is, of course, provided and varies by jurisdiction.

In the suburbs, small towns and some cities, folks being held in lock up are brought fast food.  Usually egg sandwich with coffee or coke for breakfast and hamburgers and coke for lunch and dinner. Sometimes a side of fries or hash browns may be thrown in as well.

In the bigger cities that deal with a higher volume of arrests (e.g. New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury), people in lock-up are served a baloney sandwich and a carton of orange-flavored juice in brown bag three times a day:  breakfast, lunch and dinner.  These "meals" are prepared by inmate workers in one of the State's prison kitchens. One woman I spoke to told me that she was so hungry and strung out when she got arrested that the baloney tasted like steak, but most find the sandwiches disgusting.  Everyone's got a story about the baloney sandwiches served in New Haven lock-up.  The time the sandwich was frozen solid.  The smell, slimy texture and green hue of the sandwich when it has turned rancid.

No one wants to be arrested and spend the weekend in lock-up waiting to meet the judge. But if it had to happen and you got to pick where, wouldn't you choose the suburbs with the fast food over the big city baloney?  It has long been established that the US judicial system is rife with socio-economic racial bias.  Here is yet another small, but not insignificant, example.

Let's take it one step further.  Rather than squabble about which menu is better - remember that movie about the guy who ate only McDonald's? - what if we throw them both out?  No more green baloney or round egg sandwiches. What if instead of saying, "Hey, eat this nasty junk food you lousy piece of sh**!" - that is what a rancid baloney sandwich says, isn't it? - we said, "First day of the rest of your life, have a chicken sandwich on wheat." What if we treated the people who we locked up as if they were human beings. Would it matter?

Think it over. I'm gonna go see if there's a Blogger badge I could be working towards...