Michigan: Dump Aramark Now

PrisonWe can hardly open the daily paper without reading of some new account of Aramark food services breaching their contract with the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Last week, four of their workers were caught on security video engaging in inappropriate sexual contact with inmates in a walk-in cooler at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility. The four were fired, bringing the total number of Aramark employees banned by the MDOC to eighty. In the same week, an employee at the Muskegon Correctional Facility was caught pants-down with an inmate. Two weeks before that, there were multiple reports of maggots found in and around food. Over one hundred inmates at the Parnall Correctional Facility were treated for food-borne illnesses earlier this month.

Ohio is reporting the same problems: sexual contact, maggots, food shortages, staffing shortfalls, smuggling of contraband items. The buckeye state recently fined Aramark $142,000 for contract breeches. On May 28th, guards had to shut-down the breakfast line at one prison to forestall a looming mass demonstration by inmates.

Aramark’s dismissive response to all this is comically off-base, claiming they were improving service, and calling the situation “an ongoing political and media circus about anti-privatization.” Ohio’s not buying it though. Sally Meckling, spokesperson for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association replied: “The number of incidences are not decreasing. If anything, they’re increasing.”

A few days ago an Aramark employee was arrested in a narcotics sting in a San Antonio, Texas prison. He was caught smuggling drugs, cigarettes, among other items into the Bexar County Adult Center.

Earlier this year, Democracy Tree enumerated the many offenses that line the Aramark rap sheet. The problems with the company simply can no longer be swept under the rug. After Michigan fined the company $98,000 for violations, even Gov. Snyder admitted it was time to take a serious look at the 3 year, $145 million contract with the MDOC. When asked if he would consider terminating the contract he replied:

“Well, there’s been a number of issues. So I would say we’re approaching those kinds of points, in terms of what needs to be done…I don’t want to start all kinds of speculation, but the performance hasn’t been acceptable and so we need to get these things resolved.”

WLNS reports that Rep. Greg MacMaster (R-105), chair of the House Department of Corrections subcommittee, isn’t so keen on rushing to judgement, claiming this is simply a bid for organized labor, who lost 370 jobs due to the contract, to exploit a few incidents.

All of this started with a MacMaster scheme to find money for Michigan’s crumbling roads.

Seventeen months ago Rep. MacMaster suggested to the Appropriations committee that finding money for Michigan roads was as simple as privatizing prison food services. By his estimate, more than $100 million could be found by outsourcing to the lowest bidder.

In fact, he and his fellow lawmakers were so set on the idea of private bidding that they introduced a bill to prohibit the public sector from competing for bids wherever there was a private sector entity that could perform the task. MacMaster’s bill was styled after a federal bill Senator Thune (R-South Dakota) introduced a few years ago titled the Freedom From Government Competition Act. That bill died in committee, as MacMaster’s will too.

The rationale behind these bills is the notion that the public sector has an unfair advantage in competing against the private sector, and that this is a means of saving tax dollars and creating jobs. They termed it the “Yellow Pages” test. Thune characterized it this way:

“The Freedom from Government Competition Act would codify the “Yellow Pages” test, which states that if the federal government is doing something that can be found in the Yellow Pages, the product or service should be subject to market competition to ensure better value for the taxpayer.”

David Morris, co-founder of the Institute for Local Self Reliance makes a strong argument against this type of legislation. He points out that the private sector frequently relies heavily on tax breaks and subsidies. Morris refers to the system as one of unfair “handicaps” as found in golf.

“Unbeknownst to most of us, the competition between public and private sectors is also handicapped.  But contrary to the popular wisdom, it is the private sector that often cannot compete without being given more strokes.”

Well, we certainly can report that Aramark employees are clearly taking advantage of certain types of “strokes” from Michigan inmates.

It’s time to pull the plug on this failed privatization scheme before Michigan’s prisons become the scene of repeated riots.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin


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4 Responses to Michigan: Dump Aramark Now

  1. Ronald Taylor says:

    There are food shortages on the serving lines in the Michigan prisons daily, for all three meals. At one prison, they served the Muslim prisoners pork for the Ramadan meal. Aramark workers are being fired every day for sexual and other misconduct, coming to work drunk, threatening each other and the prisoners, refusing orders and walking off the job. There have been over a hundred fired just since December when they first got the contract. Officers are seeing a large increase in contraband found in the prisons since then, and one Aramark worker has just been busted in a drug sting and was caught on the way in to work with drugs on his person. Another worker is on trial for smuggling drugs into the prison. The conditions created by Aramark in the prisons is not only inhumane for the prisoners, it is unsafe, for them, for the prison staff and for the public. Riots can start in prisons easily over bad food. The only real way to fix this would be for Michigan to hire back some of it’s food service supervisors it fired last year and have them train new state employees to supervise those prisoner workers. Hiring another low wage private company will only provide the same result as they are getting now from Aramark.

    • bf says:

      Then hire someone that owns their own resturant that is able to branch out and serve these inmates better foods, and more food not just a dap here and a teaspoon their The water is also bad at Bellamy Creek Correctional also my son is their and my neighbors husband is their and they are so skinny their clothes DO NOT FIT THEM, they have been sick from the food my son can’t eat any thing their cause it makes him so sick, and he’s put in a kite for another pillow 3 or 4 weeks ago and they just don’t care his back and legs are hurting he’s lost over 100 pounds and losing more every day, hes been getting dizzy n they won’t get them in to have their teeth fixed , my son has a hugh hole in his top of gum and infection so he mixes salt & water or mouthwash to try and help himself with the issues, all this is inhuman to treat these guys like this they are people to and all good people a lot of them should not even be in prison , If Bellamy Creek would aloud the people to use spices in the foods but NO THEY ARE NOT ALOUD THEY WILL GET WRITTEN UP, thats bull, then what food is thrown out thats bad food, they are also throwning out bus loads of food that is good also that none of the prisoner at Bellamy Creek are to get , Someone needs TO GO INTO THAT PRISON AND OTHER ONES W/O LETTING THEM PRISONS KNOW THEY ARE COMING!!! Cause just like it is at other places of work jobs if they know the head person from Lansing is coming in to check on them , they will , 1. hide everything to make it look like its a well maintained place, 2. take some prisoners for a ride so it doesn’t look over crowed( cause they could lose some money or beneifits their if it was) 3. try to make it look like the prisoners are well fed and getting enough on their plates, but after inspection is gone its back to rashings….They have murders in that Bellamy Creek Correctional Prison them should be put in their own prison and not with the other population, people , you need a better cooking and prepairing group of cooks in their that know what the hack they are doing, give them a cook book, If their are guys in their that want to take up culinary Education then have some on profession come in and train them guys in the Bellamy Creek Correctional prison and in all the other prisons that want to take up that schooling it is a GREAT way for them to get alot of back ground expenise and who knows some on them might have it, and have them have a guard in the kitchen watching if nothing else, or someone thats going to be teaching this cooking class and then get them into so any weeks of training n then have them each cook something simple that the teacher has trained them n someone is the taste tester and if all is good then they get a certificate and are working in the kitchen under supervision just to make sure they get it right and i think their should be 2 shifts someone for breakfast, someone for lunch, and someone for dinner that way other people get a chance at doing the work also if it doesnt work go to the next one thats trained, and they should be paid for their work and as they get better and better it might go up on their wage, this could help them go to college or open a small business in resturant, their are guys and women in prison that want to work not just sit in their cell they need to do something , their really needs to be more training of other classes to help them cause they get board and thats probley why they fight and get in to it with other guys and girls into give them something to do at diffenet times.

  2. T Jackson says:

    This concerns me very mucch. I spoke to the Ionia County Jail Administrator a few months ago about an article on Aramark. He confirmed this jail used Aramark. My concern was that our son had lost 40 pounds since his incarceration in January 2014. This seemed excessive weight loss by April. I had been told, the food was meager at best and tasteless. I hope this contract with Aramark is canceled immediately because of atrocious regard for human life and health.

    • bf says:

      Yes my son was has said the same thing all the food is tasteless , he to has lost a lot of weight my son has been in since dec 2013, was about 250 is down to 150, cause of the Aramark food he said its made him sick also . I hope they get someone new their and real soon, even the food thats in the vending machines my son saids is nothing like they feed them but their has been a few times I got a sandwich out of that vending machine and it was a ham & cheese and as i was taking the cheese off I noticed the ham was all spoiled, talk about gross.

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