Seven months after hiring an outside contractor to feed prisoners in state prisons, Michigan officials are considering scrapping the contract over serious problems ranging from maggots in the food to private contract employees abusing and having sex with prisoners.
According to emails acquired by the Detroit Free Press under the Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, state officials are at their “wit’s end,” over the complete failure of the Aramark Correctional Services of Philadelphia to control their employees and fulfill the terms of their contract.
In an attempt to save $12 million annually, Michigan outsourced food services to Aramark starting in January of this year, only to receive reports of maggots in the food, unclean kitchens, food shortages causing increased tensions with the prisoners, as well as Aramark employees failing drugs tests, smuggling in contraband, and assaulting inmates.
One Aramark food service director showed up for work drunk and failed a Breathalyzer test while another was caught trying to smuggle marijuana into the prison.
“I’m at my wit’s end,” Kevin Weissenborn, the Michigan Department of Corrections manager in charge of overseeing Aramark’s contract, wrote to one prison warden in March.
“I know how you feel,” replied Warden Heidi Washington of the Charles E. Egeler Reception & Guidance Center in Jackson. “At first I felt like Lansing thought I was just being too difficult and too demanding because I was always complaining. However, I think everyone knows that’s not the case.”
Although Aramark only employs 300 workers in Michigan’s prisons, 74 Aramark workers had been banned from prison property for various infractions in just six months.
Aramark was fined $98,000 in March for repeated contract violations such as running out of food and making improper substitutions for required menu items.
Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is now considering scrapping the $145-million, three-year contract before the summer heat intensifies, worried that prison unrest could threaten the security and safety of prison staffers.
After reading reports of maggots in the food at two prisons, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardvill (R-Monroe) called for new bids from other companies.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re prisoners or who they are, people don’t deserve that type of treatment,” Richardville said.
Aramark officials believe that many of the complaints stem from prison officials unhappy with outsourcing jobs at the expense of state Corrections Department workers.
[Image by rjp on FLICKR, Creative Commons licensed]
Tom Boggioni is based in the quaint seaside community of Pacific Beach in less quaint San Diego. He writes about politics, media, culture, and other annoyances. Mostly he spends his days at the beach gazing at the horizon waiting for the end of the world, or the sun to go down. Whichever comes first.
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