What do you get a prison inmate for the holidays?
While a better lawyer or a key to the jailhouse door might top most prisoners' wish lists, Philadelphia Prisons wardens instead showered them with sugar and salt.
In a tradition so old its origins are forgotten, shift officers on Dec. 23 distributed bags filled with candy, cookies, cakes, crackers, doughnuts, chips, popcorn and instant coffee to each of the 8,000-some inmates in the city's six prisons. The bags also held body wash and laundry detergent.
The $6 sacks added up to about $48,000 in treats.
But don't freak out, taxpayers. The money came from prison commissary profits, which typically fund inmate services like the prison library and programs run by Mothers In Charge, the Maternity Care Coalition and such groups, prisons spokeswoman Shawn Hawes said.
"The idea is just [to show] a little good will toward the prisoners," Hawes said. Inmates in "punitive segregation" for misbehavior did not receive the goody bags, Hawes said.
Prison kitchen staff also whip up special dinners for holidays: turkey and all the trimmings for Christmas and New Year's Day.
The prisons draw some high-profile visitors this time of year too.
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput performed a Mass at the House of Correction for inmates and staff on Dec. 22.
And Mayor Nutter, in an annual mayoral tradition, will visit each of the city's six prisons on New Year's Eve along with such dignitaries as former Mayor Wilson Goode. During the goodwill tour, they'll watch creative performances by inmates and socialize with staff.