In many places, a death row inmate has the right to request a special last meal that he will consume a day or two before his scheduled execution. This does not, however, always mean that he receives any meal he wants. Often, restrictions require a prisoner to choose foods that are available within the prison system or that cost less than a preset limit. Prisoners are usually denied requests that include alcohol or tobacco products. In many cases, prison officials make substitutions when they cannot fulfill a prisoner’s request because of prison restrictions.
In some prisons, last meal requests are limited to foods that can be obtained from within the prison system. At prisons that have this rule, prisoners are not permitted to have pizza from a local pizza shop, have food delivered from a gourmet restaurant, or receive food that a prison official would have to purchase from a store. Likewise, he cannot have a meal that is home-cooked by a friend or family member. For example, if a prisoner wants lobster for dinner, his request will probably be refused, as the prison is unlikely to have it on hand. He may, however, request a cheeseburger and French fries or steak and eggs if the prison has the right ingredients in stock.
Some prisons place monetary restrictions on these requests. For example, in some places, a prisoner can request any meal he wants as long as it will not cost more than $40 US dollars to purchase or prepare. If a prisoner request a meal that would cost more than this, prison officials will usually substitute selections to make a meal that is similar to what the prisoner requested but falls within the monetary budget. For instance, if a prisoner wants an expensive steak dinner but that would cost more than the spending limit, he may receive a hamburger steak instead.
Most prisons also deny requests that include substances that are typically prohibited in prison or are not food items. For example, if a person requests alcohol with a last meal, he is unlikely to receive it. Likewise, requests for tobacco products are usually denied. Interestingly, there are even some prison systems that do not cater to last meal requests at all.
Often, death row inmates’ last meal requests are publicized in news reports. Many prisoners request cheeseburgers, French fries, and pizza. Steaks are also popular as last requests. Many prisoners also request ice cream, soda, and iced tea. If a prisoner wishes to keep his request private, prison officials often honor this request and do not release the information to the public.