Trinity Food Service’s response to prisoner allegations of food-skimping: “They don’t have a choice. We could have a bigger discussion of why they’re there to begin with. But you’re served what you’re served.” — Jim O’Connell, Trinity spokesperson, January 2015
Democracy Tree catalogued the multiple offenses of Aramark, the soon-to-be former private food vendor for the Michigan Department of Corrections, so now it’s time to compile the rap sheet on their successor, Trinity Services Group.
First though, let’s note that the new vendor was awarded the $158 million dollar contract without a proper bidding process. AFSCME Council 25 plans to challenge the no-bid contract. Union spokesperson Ed McNeil told the Detroit Free Press:
“Changing vendors two years after the open bid was first awarded without going back to the marketplace is bad business because it cheats the public out of the benefit of competitive pricing.”
“Aramark has a poor track record of service and Trinity won’t be any better.”
AFSCME is considering all options, including litigation.
Hungry in the Peach State
Readers may recall that the official response from Aramark whenever their employees were caught smuggling, have sex with inmates, or serving-up maggots was to deflect the offense, claiming it was all the work of anti-privatization activists and disgruntled union members.
Not so Trinity.
When called-out last January over food-skimping at the Gordon County Jail in Calhoun, Georgia, they unabashedly blamed the prisoners for whining. One inmate was forced to supplement his diet by eating toothpaste, another had become so weak for lack of food he trembled at night. The complaints piled-up at the facility, prompting the Southern Center for Human Rights to remind Calhoun County officials that courts have ruled that prisoners must be provided with “substantial and wholesome” nutrition.
Trinity’s official response was to shrug-off the complaints as inevitable, with Jim O’Connell, a company spokesman saying:
“They don’t have a choice. We could have a bigger discussion of why they’re there to begin with. But you’re served what you’re served.”
Sarah Geraghty, of the Southern Center for Human Rights avers that the county is getting ripped-off and the prisoners are paying the price, saying of the Trinity contract “it does not appear the county is getting what they’re paying for.”
Sex and Drugs in North Carolina
On July 10th this year, Dawn Hayes, a Trinity worker in Craven County, North Carolina, was arraigned for having a sexual relationship with a prisoner. When authorities searched her things they additionally found marijuana. The case is pending.
Protests in Pennsylvania
May 2015: Inmates at a Lancaster County lock-up were heard by nearby residents shouting out from windows “we’re hungry!” (Audio HERE), prompting County Commissioner and chair of the County Prison Board, Scott Martin, to deny the food-skimping claims as mere attempts by inmates to “stir the pot”, saying the allegations were “gravely exaggerated.” He told WGAL “if you don’t like the diet, then don’t come into prison.”
Mayhem in Maryland
After losing its contract at a Baltimore facility, Trinity reportedly left it mired in filth. The replacement contractor noted that the “facilities that were handed to us by Trinity were overrun with rats, roaches, mice and birds.” Thurman Curtis the Chief Operating Officer of the new vendor, Crystal Enterprises, said during their “walkthrough, we witnessed meals being prepared under grid ceilings which were covered with rat droppings.” Trinity denied the claims of vermin and filth, and are now demanding to be reinstated at the lock-up.
Last March, inmates in the Graham County jail found rodent droppings in their food. The County Undersheriff, Jeff McCormies, explained it “looked like rodents of some type had gotten into dry goods.” The facility had to hire an exterminator, and Trinity has made an effort to more safely store its food.
Last October, Richland County officials were forced to re-bid on a contract they had entered into with Trinity for food services at their county jail and juvenile detention center. It seems Trinity was losing money with their 93.5 cent per meal bid, so they exercised a 90-day termination clause claiming they made an error on the original bid, and it should have been $1.37 per meal.
Not so fast, Trinity.
If 93.5 cents was some sort of clerical error in Ohio, then they may wish to reconsider the competence of their request for proposal team who offered a 98 cents per meal to the Lehigh County jail in Allentown, Pennsylvania at about the same time last year. It sure is a lucky thing they lost out to a lower bidder, A’viands, LLC, who flew-in under the radar with a 94 cent bid, leading Edward Sweeney, the county Director of Corrections, to remark “I’m a little uneasy about it. It is a very aggressive number”, adding “I’m not really sure they gave it their full due diligence.”
Uneasy you should be, Mr. Sweeney. As the third largest private food vendor in the nation, A’viands knew exactly what they were doing — it’s through these low-ball bids that unscrupulous vendors win contracts with razor thin margins. They then make up the difference by cutting corners and starving inmates. It’s the simple math of privatization.
It’s only a matter of time before we add Michigan to the Trinity rap sheet.
Updated to correct content 7-16-15. Contract amount was 158 million, not thousand.