Texas Turns Down Cook's Offer Of Free 'Last Meals'

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Last week the state of Texas said it would no longer let condemned prisoners order practically anything they want for their last meals before execution.

As we reported, "the huge meal that white supremacist Lawrence Russell Brewer ordered and then left untouched before his execution ... convinced Texas officials to end the state's traditional practice." Among the foods he was given: a bacon cheeseburger, three fajitas, a pound of barbecue, a pizza and a pint of ice cream."

Here's a quick update on the Texas decision:

Brian Price, who when he was an inmate in Texas worked in the prison kitchen and prepared about 200 last meals, now runs a restaurant in East Texas. He's offered to prepare future last meals for free. "Taxpayers will be out nothing," he told The Associated Press.

The state says thanks, but no thanks.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons told the Los Angeles Times that Price's proposal is "a kind offer." But, she said, "it's not the cost but rather the concept we're moving away from."

As we wrote last week, the plan from here on is for Texas death row inmates to be given last meals that come from the same kitchen that prepares food for other prisoners.

Update at 4 p.m. ET. Price Says A Last Meal Is The Compassionate Thing To Do:

Earlier this afternoon, All Things Considered host Melissa Block spoke with Price, the former prison cook who offered to provide free last meals. Price, who the Times says was sentenced to 15 years in prison for convictions related to a sexual assault on his ex-wife and the abduction of a brother-in-law, spent more than 10 years preparing last meals. After his release in 2003, he wrote a book called Meals to Die For.

Price doubts Brewer was really given all the food he asked for. His experience in the Texas system, Price said, was that prisoners might ask for a lot — but the food still came from the prison kitchen unless a guard or other prison official decided to bring something special in. And requests for unusually large amounts of food were not granted, Price said.

As for the merits of a special last meal, during his conversation with Melissa, Price made the case that "as a civilized society and a Christian nation ... why not ... show that softer, more compassionate side?"

Granted, Price said, most murderers don't offer their victims last meals. "But ... are we going to lower ourselves to that same level as that crime that was committed and be so cold and heartless?"

Much more from the interview will be on today's All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show. Later, we'll add the as-broadcast version of their conversation to the top of this post.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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