The honey buns enter lockup the same way anyone else does: bound, escorted through halls and sally ports, and secluded in small boxes solely opened from the outside. From there the honey buns languish for days, maybe longer, until they're gone.
They are a lowly, sturdy food designed for desperate cravings and vending machine convenience. They can endure weeks of neglect and even a mild mashing in a coat pocket or backpack. They are, it should come as no surprise, especially beloved by a similarly hardy but disrespected population: prison inmates.
These honey buns have taken on lives of their own among the criminal class: as currency for trades, as bribes for favors, as relievers for stress and substitutes for addiction. They've become birthday cakes, hooch wines, last meals -- even ingredients in a massive tax fraud.
Honey buns are fried dough in a bag. Honey buns meet next to none of the human body's needs and are impressively unhealthy.
Six ounces of a Mrs. Freshley's Grand Honey Bun serves up 680 calories, 51 grams of sugar and 30 grams of fat. The icing is sticky and frost white, like Elmer's Glue. The taste bears all the subtlety of a freshly licked sugar cube.
"As you can imagine," said Janice Anderson, a spokeswoman for Flowers Foods, which owns the Mrs. Freshley's brand, "this product is for those folks that feel like having something very decadent."
Inmates at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women used honey buns as the base for a Christmas apple pie. Inmates at the Robeson County Jail in Lumberton, N.C., mixed in honey buns to sweeten a wine they fermented from orange juice. During his two-month stay in an Illinois jail cell, NFL defensive tackle Tank Johnson gulped down, after hearty meals of beef sticks and summer sausages, 40 honey buns for dessert.
Prisoners on death row have even turned to the sweets for their last meals. Charles Roache, lethally injected in North Carolina in 2004, chose a sirloin steak, popcorn shrimp and a honey bun.
George Alec Robinson, an unemployed sanitation worker and father of three, paid his public defenders in honey buns after they saved him from Virginia's electric chair.
"He said, 'This is all in the world I can give you guys,' " attorney James C. Clark told the Washington Post. "They were good, too."
In September, the day after the New Orleans Saints beat the San Francisco 49ers in a Monday Night Football game, a fight broke out in the Alpha Pod of the Hernando (Florida) County Jail.
Inmate Ricardo Sellers, 21, had punched Brandon Markey, 23, in the face, sending Markey to a hospital, according to deputies. Sellers was angry that Markey hadn't paid up after losing a bet over football.
His debt? Four honey buns.
For all their sweetness, honey buns have a history of involvement in prison violence. In 2006, at the Kent County Jail in Michigan, inmate Benny Rochelle dragged his cellmate off the top bunk, killing the man, when he could not find his honey bun. And last year, at the Lake Correctional Institution west of Orlando, two men were sentenced to life in prison for stabbing with crude shivs the man they thought had stolen shaving cream, cigarettes and a honey bun from their footlockers.
Yes, murder over honey buns. Was it their decadence, or their status as jailhouse currency?
In Texas and Pennsylvania, inmates bartered honey buns for tablets of Seroquel, an addictive antipsychotic abused on the street as a sleeping pill.
In some cases, honey buns have proven too seductive for inmates' own good. At the Stock Island Detention Center, outside Key West, scheming inmates offered overnight arrestees in the jail's drunk tank an irresistible deal: their Social Security numbers for a honey bun. Using the numbers, they filled out tax forms with phony information, a scam that cost the IRS more than $1 million in fraudulent refunds.
As a retired sheriff told the Miami Herald, "They were eating a lot of honey buns on the taxpayer."
After Ryan Frederick took the stand last year during his capital murder trial in Virginia, prosecutor James Willett made a strange request.
Stand up. Open your jacket. Turn sideways.
When he had been arrested for shooting a detective during a drug raid, Frederick had weighed 120 pounds, according to the Virginian-Pilot. After a year in lockup, he ballooned to 185.
Exhibit A: Frederick's gut.
"You're not exactly wasting away from regret and remorse now, are you?" Willett said.
Frederick's behavior at the Chesapeake City Jail was central to prosecutors' argument that he had bragged of the killing. His weight gain, they said, further proved his shamelessness.
But during his testimony, Frederick said the extra pounds stemmed from something else.
To deal with the stresses of jail, he said, he ate.
"I have a bad habit of doughnuts and honey buns," he told the jury.
(Contact Drew Harwell at dharwell(at)sptimes.com.)