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Let them eat ... steak? Unpaid guards serve federal prisoners lavish holiday meals during shutdown as prisoners mock guards

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Roast beef, surf and turf, Cornish hens ... you name it

MIGUEL MENDEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Federal inmates are chowing down on steaks while their prison guards are working on an unpaid basis due to the partial government shutdown.

The shutdown is in its 17th day at the time of this article.

Really?

Yes. According to a Monday report in The Washington Post, inmates at dozens of federal prisons across the U.S. ate steak and feasted on holiday pies on Christmas and New Year's Day.

Several workers who spoke to the outlet voiced their frustrations that the prisoners received the treat of steak while many unpaid prison guards were scrambling to figure out how to feed their own families.

Joe Rojas, who is president of the American Federation of Government Employees, told NBC News that he was disgusted by the irony.

"[The prisoners] are getting a lavish meal and we are working the holidays away from our families, wondering if we can pay the rent or make it home," Rojas said. He noted that some inmates even went as far as to mock guards over the meals.

"They're using federal workers in a game of chicken. Who's going to blink first? We're a pawn," Rojas told the Post. "I didn't sign up for this. I signed up for this job to protect society and to have a good government job so when I retire I can have a pension, not to be used in a game of chicken."

Rojas added that it's not as if the prisoners at these facilities are serving time for white-collar crimes.

"These inmates are not here for singing too loud at a church," Rojas said. "These are dangerous felons. We're working with killers. We're working with terrorists. All these guys do is think and hatch plans and figure out how to get weapons. It's like a Molotov cocktail waiting to explode."

According to NBC News, inmates at a federal prison in Illinois ate surf and turf, while prisoners at a Brooklyn federal prison ate Cornish hen and Boston cream pie over the holidays.

Sandy Parr, a food service foreman at Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, said, "You're giving a gift to somebody who committed a crime, but yet you won't pay the people who are supervising them? It's frustrating and maddening."

June Bencebi, who is a case manager at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, said that she worked both holidays — without pay — while inmates queued up multiple times for second servings.

"A lot of the staff were upset over the fact that we don't know where our next meal is going to come, and these inmates were served so much food they were able to get on the serving line twice," Bencebi said.

Has the Bureau of Prisons said anything about this outcry?

In a statement, the Bureau of Prisons said that such special meals are "planned weeks in advance, including as happened here in advance of the government shutdown."

The dinners are presented in order to "promote morale for the inmate population because they are separated from their families."

"On Christmas, a facility may serve a special meat choice such as Cornish hen or a special dessert," the statement added.

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