Maggots among new prison food complaints

Reports show numerous problems with vendor feeding Ohio inmates
Associated Press
Jul 16, 2014

Maggots in food, staffing shortages and reports of running out of main and side dishes are among new complaints against the vendor that won the contract to feed Ohio inmates.

Reports obtained by The Associated Press through records requests found numerous problems reported since April, when the state took the rare step of fining the vendor because of contract failures.

The records show 65 instances where Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services failed to provide food or ran out of it — usually the main course, such as hamburgers or chicken patties — while serving inmates, leading to delays and in some cases security concerns as inmates grew frustrated. Substitute items were provided in most cases.

On May 28, guards stopped breakfast "to preclude a mass demonstration" at Warren Correctional Institution in southwest Ohio by inmates upset at being served only white bread and peanut butter after the supply truck was apparently late.

The records also show several days when Aramark employees simply failed to show up and cases of unauthorized relationships between inmates and Aramark workers. Reports allege sexual activity between some inmates and workers.

Records also show five reports of maggots since January in food or the preparation process. Last month, for example, an Aramark employee notified a prison guard at Trumbull Correctional Institution that "one of the two serving lines had maggots falling out of the warming tray."

A report by the local health department called the incident isolated and said the Aramark supervisor followed necessary steps to ensure food safety.

At issue is a bigger national debate over privatizing prison services — from food preparation to the running of entire facilities — to save money at a time of squeezed state budgets. Proponents say private industry can often do the job more efficiently and more cheaply, unencumbered by union and administrative rules, while opponents say a focus on the bottom line leads to cutting corners that creates danger for inmates and employees.

Aramark called the complaints "an ongoing political and media circus about anti-privatization" of prisons, saying it had never had such claims about its operations in more than 500 correctional facilities.

"We continue to make steady progress in managing the operational issues," spokeswoman Karen Cutler said in an email. "The number of issues continues to decline."

Aramark's $110 million deal to feed some 50,000 Ohio prisoners began in September and runs through June 30, 2015.

The state fined the company $142,000 in April, saying it had failed to meet promised staffing levels, among other problems.

"Food service is a critical operation and we have made clear to Aramark our concerns," said JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

It's difficult to compare food service before and after Aramark since the agency didn't track incidents internally before, she said. The state investigated occasional reports of maggots or food running short before Aramark, Smith said.

The agency is inspecting all prisons and asking local health departments for independent reviews at some, she said. Aramark is also having an outside company review procedures, Smith said.

Ninety-six Aramark employees are banned from working in Ohio prisons, 20 more than when the fine was levied, according to prison documents.

Cutler said safety is improved because Aramark employees breaking the rules are dismissed immediately, compared with a lengthy grievance process for union members before the contract.

The prison employees union has filed a formal grievance over the Aramark contract. It said it offered a competitive proposal to keep food service in-house. It disputes the notion a pre-Aramark comparison wasn't possible, saying problems were documented, with prison employees disciplined for failing to meet standards.

"The number of incidences are not decreasing. If anything, they're increasing," said Sally Meckling, spokeswoman for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder says he may reconsider Aramark's three-year, $145 million contract with the prison system, citing issues with the company's performance, including about 30 inmates having symptoms consistent with food poisoning.

Aramark said it was told last week that the state couldn't find a connection between those reports and its food preparation. Messages were left with the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Comments

Swiftshot12

Maggots can be a great source of protein. Sorry I do not have much sympathy for people that can not act civilized enough to keep themselves out of prison.

holysee

shotswifty, You are careless and misinformed. Prison is a DARLING-OF-THE-SHAREHOLDERS for profit enterprise. Serving contaminated food helps the shareholders of the food service provider make more bucks and everyone knows that bucks are especially important in Kash-sick's Ohio. GO bucks! At least half the people in prison are there for minor victimless crimes that would never land you in prison in the rest of the "civilized" world. I hope you have the opportunity to be sucked into that stystem so you can have that positive experience for your own minor indiscretions, and so my shareholder dividends can be a little less flat.
Yes shotswifty, I don't normally pray, but today I prey that you go to prison soon to see for yourself how much you really deserve.

JMOP

Interesting...assumption or fact Holysee? What minor victimless crimes are overcrowding our prison system?

Babo

Drug possession crimes, low level theft crimes and child support wherein repayment cannot be made due incarceration

deertracker

I agree. There's also different sentencing guidelines for powder cocaine v. crack cocaine. I don't get that but it's obvious why it is that way.

SCbuckeye

The sentence for crack possession has become equal to cocaine possession but, ya'll are right. There are too many people in state prison for minor offenses. I can't afford it, but if I have to pay taxes for it, at least treat them like humans.

SCbuckeye

South Carolina is on the same privatization path, I hope we don't go this far.

JMOP

Theft, a victimless crime? Who are they stealing from then?

Babo

If you've been a victim of a low level theft, you want to be paid back. Sending the person to prison doesn't get your money back but instead increases costs for everyone because that inmate isn't working and earning money to pay the person back or taxes.

mikeylikesit

holysee, you sound like you could use a drink? im buying!

SCbuckeye

Oh my God, are we becoming a third world country? Human Beings should never be treated this way, given food that is unfit for a dog. They have forfeited many rights due to their crimes but, they are still humans! Let's be humane!

deertracker

Agreed! Regardless of their crimes they should not be fed maggots.

xtensionofme

Maggots for maggots. Sounds about right.

Florence Nightingale

This doesn't look good for the proponents of privatization.