In the film The Green Mile, sympathetic guards grant death-row inmate John Coffey’s last-meal request: meat loaf, cornbread, mashed potatoes with gravy, okra and peach cobbler. They also honor his request to see a “flicker show,” something he’s never seen. They take him to a movie theatre where he’s mesmerized by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Top Hat.
But that’s Hollywood, not real life.
In real life, it seems, last-meal requests are not honored, according to Brian Price, a former Texas inmate who cooked hundreds of last meals for those about to be executed. While the news media would publish the often-extravagant meal requests, Price said he was instructed to cook meals using only the ingredients on hand at the prison kitchen commissary. A request for lobster was met with frozen pollock. He’s written about his experiences in Meals to Die For. First published in 2004, the latest executions have spurred renewed interest in Price and his book.
Some Texas lawmakers have condemned the practice of last-meal requests, saying it wastes taxpayer money and shows too much compassion, the Houston Chronicle reports. Now, those about to be executed get the same meal all the other prisoners get. Price says such lawmakers are looking at the publicized requests, not the actual meal the prisoners get. He has offered to honor last-meal requests, making the meals in his restaurant or paying for them.
Other states have different practices. In Louisiana, for example, it is customary for the warden to dine with the prisoner at the last meal, and the warden occasionally will pay for it personally.
All this week, we have been looking at facts about the death penalty that may surprise you. Other than what we’ve seen in movies, I suspect most of us don’t know much about the widely varied policies on last meals.
What’s your opinion about last-meal requests?
Should they be granted—or denied?
Do you have any fresh ideas for last meals?
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.