The Aramark scandal continues to grow in Michigan as another serious incident occurred at the mid-state St. Louis Correctional Facility. An Aramark employee has been arrested for smuggling contraband, including heroin, marijuana, cocaine and tobacco. Drug searches found 39 packets of illegal items in the possession of five inmates.
Several months ago, an Aramark employee was caught attempting to smuggle marijuana into the Cotton Corrections Facility in Jackson. Within hours of the Michigan pot arrest, another Aramark employee in Indiana was also arrested for possession of marijuana at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. The two incidents were unrelated and not the result of a sting operation. It was just another Thursday.
Aramark has contended that they are the victim of “an ongoing political and media circus about anti-privatization”, yet they remain mute on this latest incident.
Similar occurrences in Ohio prisons recently prompted the state to slap the company with a second fine for non-compliance with their $110 million contract — signed at about the same time as Michigan’s three year $145 million deal. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections sent a letter to Aramark levying a $130,200 fine citing maggots, staffing shortages, improper food substitutions, transport of contraband, and sanitation problems at five prisons in the state since the company received their first warning last April when they were fined $142,000.
The Daily Times reports the chief of the Ohio prison oversight committee, Joanna Saul, blamed the problems on underpaid employees:
“You’re making $10 to $11, you can bring in a pack of cigarettes and sell it for $300 — what are you going to choose?”
Michigan has fined the company twice, but only collected on one of the levies, having waived a $98,000 penalty without public disclosure. The second fine of $200,000 will pay the $160,000 salary of Gov. Snyder’s hand-picked corrections watchdog, Ed Buss.
Originally, Buss was to have worked out of the office of the governor, where his findings would have been subject to executive privilege. Under media pressure, Snyder placed Buss in the Department of Technology, Budget and Management. Buss comes to Michigan via a private prison vendor, Corrections Healthcare Companies, and prior to that, he was fired from a similar oversight position in Florida.
Snyder transferred oversight away from the Department of Corrections after allegations of bias were floated by those supporting the Aramark contract.
The governor surprised many last month when he did not take action to terminate the contract with the private vendor, although electoral politics certainly weighed heavily on his decision.