An outsider (one not acquainted with the prison setting) might find it strange to hear comments such as “Hey, Bossman! My Johnny is short!” or “See if you can get 150 Johnnies in one trash bag and call me back.” or “Give him a Johnny, if he gets hungry.”
Well, these might sound rather insulting, uncomfortable or even dangerous for whoever Johnny is, but don’t be mistaken. Johnny is not a person, it is a thing. A sack lunch to be precise. These can come in a variety of flavors depending on who the recipient might be.
If a Johnny is prepared by offenders, it is usually a fairly good representation of a nutritious meal served in a brown paper bag. If it is prepared by staff, sometimes, it may not be quite as nutritious, especially if the staff in question is bored or pressed into service during lockdowns (offenders are kept locked in their cells and only taken out for emergencies or showers), emergencies (such as hurricanes, escapes, power outages, etc.) or given to offenders, who have lost dining hall privileges due to misbehavior. The Johnnies made by these unhappy individuals might be a bit less quality assured than necessary to meet the requirements set forth by Food Service authorities. It is the responsibility of the Food Service director to make sure the Johnnies are prepared and delivered according to plans, procedures and protocol (excuse the alliteration). It is impossible for the directors to inspect every single Johnny leaving the Food Service Department.
What, you may ask, is included in a Johnny? Normally, it would have a couple of sandwiches, some dried fruit and if the offenders are lucky… milk to drink. The calories contained in the Johnny is carefully documented in order to make sure no one is going to starve and a sample Johnny is kept for a few days just in case some question arises. Sandwiches might be made from bologna or salami and cheese, peanut-butter and jelly, tuna or chicken salad or even a hamburger or a fried fish sandwich. Dried fruit includes raisins and prunes since it is almost impossible to put fruit cocktail or sliced, canned fruit in a brown paper bag without great expense in packaging. However, everyday Johnnies for work crews and persons on medical fasts, for example, may also include milk and cookies, but these must not be confused with Diabetic Diets. These diets are usually assigned by weak medical personnel fed up with Offender Whiner, who simply wants an extra snack to trade with other offenders. (I understand that here in Texas, the prison system is supposed to be going to powdered milk, which would be impossible to package for an individual sack lunch and I’ve heard rumors that there will be no more desserts served at all, but I’m not sure if this has happened yet.)
So, as the price of packaging, milk in cartons and food continues to rise, the contents of the traditional Johnny might go through some radically ingenious changes as the Food Service Departments try to cope with rising demand and shrinking budgets.