Last week, the Michigan Department of Corrections reversed its recent decision to not privatize prison food service after the legislature questioned the bidding process, and they announced they would award the contract to Aramark, the world’s largest food service provider. Republican lawmakers have been pushing hard for privatization in all aspects of Michigan’s corrections system, so they re-crunched the numbers to come-up with an audit outcome that favored Aramark over public workers. AFSCME Council 25, which represents the 373 workers that will lose their jobs, told The Detroit News last week that the legislature “cooked the books”:
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, which represents about 38 unionized food service supervisors, plans to challenge the contract recommendation to the board, union lobbyist Nick Ciaramitaro said.
Ciaramitaro questioned the savings estimate since the state spends about $2 a day to feed a prisoner, and the food service workers have dual roles as trained as corrections officers.
“We’re now allowing an outside vendor to come in and pretend that they’re saving money because not every prisoner eats every meal,” Ciaramitaro said. “They cook the books to show a one-time savings.”
A Detroit Free Press article today supports Ciaramitaro’s claim:
A 2007 report by the Florida Department of Corrections Bureau of Internal Audit found that a large number of prisoners stopped showing up for meals after Aramark took over the contract, “creating a windfall for the vendor and reducing the value of the services provided without a proportionate decrease in … rates charged to the department.
In 2008, Florida cited Aramark in an audit for withholding food and over-billing, and the contract was severed when Aramark refused to improve their standards. A year later, Kentucky officials claimed that a food shortage under Aramark sparked a riot at one of their facilities. A 2010 audit of Aramark in Kentucky identitified food skimping, problems with food safety, over-billing, and poor record keeping.
Democracy Tree reported a year ago on the potential problems with privatization of prison services in Michigan — and now Republican lawmakers are poised to make those fears a reality.
Amy Kerr Hardin