Juvenile Inmates' Behavior Improves With Larger Meals

Sep 22, 2014

Shawnee County has started feeding its juvenile inmates more after finding their behavior improves when portion sizes increase.

As a test, in July, the Shawnee County Juvenile Detention Center began doubling the size of the meals it serves to the 10- to 17-year-olds incarcerated there. The center also replaced each evening's sugary snack with fresh fruit.

Staff members saw a noticeable improvement in the behavior and educational program performance of young inmates.

Spokesman Maj. Tim Phelps says the moves are among steps the corrections department is implementing to try to "take some of the bite" out of confinement; it's involved in program to reduce the negative effects of detention on the kids and help them avoid becoming hardened criminals.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation accepted the state of Kansas as program site in 2011. Shawnee County is among five Kansas counties currently taking part; it's adopted strategies that include replacing jumpsuits with a less "institutional-looking" uniform with slacks-like pants and a polo-style shirt.

Phelps said that since Shawnee County put the strategies in place, the number of juveniles it's held at any given time has fallen from the 50s or 60s to the mid-30s now.

A state grant is covering the $3,000 cost of providing more food in August and September. Corrections officials say they'll ask county commissioners next month to continue the arrangement for a full year, with a grant available to cover the $16,000 cost.