- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2002

Hard time in Harrisonburg, Va., just got a little harder especially if you're the sort of inmate who likes a little ketchup with your french fries.

Rockingham County Sheriff Donald R. Farley, looking to trim costs at the regional jail in Harrisonburg, has decided to charge inmates for the little packets of mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise and other condiments that used to be free at mealtime.

Sheriff Farley said he got the idea after seeing prisoners throw away dozens of unopened condiment packets with their hot dog meals. The jail now charges $1.50 for a bundle of 10 condiment packets.

"It's not a Holiday Inn the people are staying at and we're not going to treat them as such," the sheriff said.

The cafeteria serves three meals a day to 330 inmates. Families of inmates who aren't working a paid job inside the jail can deposit money to pay for things like condiments, candy bars and other items.

Some of the prisoners complained to Sheriff Farley during a jail visit last week that his new policy is "cruel and unjust." But the sheriff said he is not without sympathy for the incarcerated: Salad dressing is still free.

"I'm not trying to be harsh here," he said. "I feel a salad deserves a dressing, whereas a hot dog doesn't necessarily need ketchup or mustard."

The sheriff said charging for the condiments will save the jail $10,000 a year, and that's the reason he made the change. But he hopes the new policy will help the inmates learn to better appreciate the spicy, mouth-watering richness of freedom.

"I hope when the inmates complete their sentence, they enjoy having their ketchup and mustard whenever they want it. Maybe when they get out of here, they'll get their life in order and won't come back," he said.

In the three weeks the new restrictions have been in effect, Sheriff Farley hasn't seen inmates go to any extremes to make mealtimes more tasty.

"I've never seen someone smuggle in ketchup," he said.

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