Ohio quietly recommends new contract with troubled private food contractor Aramark

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has recommended the state sign a new two-year contract with the for-profit food vendor, Aramark. The ODRC did not announce the recommendation, which was actually completed last year. The Associated Press got wind of it only after “a records request said the prisons department was satisfied with Aramark’s performance and wanted to renew despite issues with the contract.”

Those “issues” refer to the long list of offenses and contract violations, including food shortages, contaminated food supplies and ‘improper relations’ between employees and inmates, for which Ohio fined Aramark $272,000 last year. Since then, Ohio prison officials say Aramark’s service has improved.

There are scant details on why the ODRC thinks Aramark is fit to continue serving Ohio prisons. According to the Sandusky Register, the evaluation form the AP obtained was little more than a series of check boxes, yes/no answers and standardized questions, “not a detailed analysis.” But one thing the evaluation did show was that state officials were impressed that Aramark’s cost-per-prisoner was similar to that of Indiana and Michigan, where they also have contracts.

The comparison to Michigan, in particular, is interesting because things are not exactly going smoothly there with regards to the state’s contract with Aramark. Continue reading

Ohio Prison Inspection Committee Makes Preliminary Recommendations to Aramark

Ohio is taking baby steps towards improving food service in prisons served by Aramark.

The state’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) has published preliminary recommendations for Aramark. Some of them are punitive and include measures that go beyond what other contractors might expect.

But others point to Aramark’s failure to do the most basic tasks required in food service.

Several of CIIC executive Joanna Saul’s recommendations should be routine at any establishment. I couldn’t believe Aramark hadn’t been doing these things in the first place: Continue reading

State Rep. Hagan Tours Ohio Private Immigrant Prison After Nearly 250 Inmates Protest Conditions and Treatment

Ohio State Rep. Bob Hagan continues to push Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for answers about its handling of a recent incident at the for-profit Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) in which 248 prisoners waged a 14-hour nonviolent protest against their treatment and conditions.

After he was denied entry in the hours after the August 12th protest, Hagan was invited back to the prison last Friday for a tour. He was also given the opportunity to evaluate security camera footage and speak with some of the prisoners involved.

WKBN.com reports that Rep. Hagan was told there are three main issues concerning inmates: health care, food quality and commissary prices. Continue reading

Cold Meals Only for Prisoners at Benton County Jail

5NEWSOnline reports that Benton County Jail will continue to provide only cold meals to its inmates for a variety of reasons, all of which are absurd and wildly offensive.

Let’s run through them, starting with perhaps the most honest reason of them all:

“I’ts [sic] food,” said Keshia Guyll, with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. “Would I want to eat it every day? Probably not. But, you know, this is a jail. They are here for a reason.


“We wanted people to know that this isn’t just solely a punitive measure, serving inmates cold food,” Guyll said. “There’s other things that go along with that, and like I said, budget is one of the main ones.”

Mistreating prisoners because you think they’re “there for a reason” is not only an opinion ignorant of the various reasons why people end up in prison — just and unjust — it’s also immoral. The courts may have found that cold meals are not constitutional violations of a prisoner’s 8th amendment rights, but some states have outlawed them.

However, in Rhodes v Chapman, the courts found that while prisoners are “not entitled to luxury or ‘comfort,'” facilities must be run in a “manner “compatible with the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” With such disagreement between states, I’d say the jury is still out on this one.

The bottom line is that this view of prisons and prisoners is what allows their abuse to continue unchallenged. Laws and courts are not inherently just, and not everyone in jail has been convicted of a crime. This is a vile case of buck-passing and victim blaming. Continue reading

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Shuts Press and Public Out of Aramark Prison Food Controversy

In both Michigan and Ohio, Aramark stands accused of unsanitary food service conditions and meal shortages. Ohio announced it is developing plans to invite health inspectors into its prison kitchens to evaluate “cleanliness and food safety, just like restaurants” — a much-needed buffer of oversight for the prison food supply in that state.

But Michigan is moving in the totally opposite direction. The Detroit Free Press reports that Governor Snyder is taking oversight of Aramark’s contract away from the Department of Corrections and bringing it into his office, which is exempt from Michigan’s public disclosure laws. The unions are right to fear that this move will inevitably “shield problems with the contract from public scrutiny.” Continue reading

Maggots Are The Only Ones Eating Well at Prisons Served By Aramark

The Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday that maggots were found in prisoners’ food once again at the Ohio Reformatory for Women at Marysville during a pre-meal inspection. Last week, 1,000 prisoners at the facility dumped their meals to protest the abysmal quality of food provided by the private contractor Aramark.

Corrections departments in Michigan and Ohio have fined Aramark approximately $570,000 this year  for unsanitary food conditions and supply shortages at multiple prisons. There have been 9 documented cases of maggot-ridden food in Ohio alone, and Aramark is facing similar complaints in other states like Florida, New Jersey, California and Kentucky.

Thanks can be paid, in part or whole, to Governor John Kasich, who has cut 2,318 unionized corrections jobs (including food service workers) in the past three years in favor of a privatization scheme. Aramark’s contract has saved the state $13.3 million so far.

At the end of July, Aramark was given an ultimatum that they could lose their contract if they didn’t rectify the situation. The company has been allowed to continue serving prisoners despite multiple new discoveries of fly larvae in their food and the health risks that involves. The governor is reluctant to cancel the contract because $13.3 million is apparently worth more to the state than feeding its prisoners.

Aramark is not saving the state money because it is an exceptionally efficient manager of prisoners’ food. They are spending just $3.61 a day to feed each prisoner — just over $1 a meal. Prisoners are losing as much as 20 pounds when Aramark is in the kitchen. Ohio is saving money by starving prisoners.

Aramark’s $110 million, 2-year contract to serve Ohio prisons is just one of many the company has with thousands of other prisons, colleges, universities, schools, office buildings, sports arenas and more. They even own the popular online food ordering service Seamless.com.

Is $272,000 in fines really big enough of a penalty to make them change, or is it merely an internalized ‘cost of doing business?’ Even $570k does not seem like it will do much injury to the company. It’s just a bit larger than the CEO’s signing bonus.

If it’s too expensive to feed all of the prisoners a proper meal, maybe we have too many people behind bars.