County Commissioners from Oakland and Ingham Counties joined Progress Michigan yesterday in calling for Governor Rick Snyder to end the state’s prison food services contract with Aramark. Aramark has faced a rash of scandals including employees bringing drugs and other contraband into prisons, employees engaging in sexual activities with prisoners, and maggots being found in food service areas in two prisons. Over 80 of their employees – nearly a quarter of those working in our state’s prisons -have been banned from Michigan prisons because of inappropriate conduct.
In a conference call with journalists yesterday, Oakland County Commissioner Dave Woodward said, “Governor Snyder’s decision to privatize state prison food service through Aramark has been a colossal failure. When Governor Snyder cut 370 good-paying jobs to make way for the Aramark contract, he was quoted saying they would ‘hopefully’ provide better service. Well, our supposedly data-driven governor banked on hope rather than facts and lost.”
Woodward has introduced “A Resolution to Protect Taxpayer Dollars and Ensure Corporate Accountability” that urges Gov. Snyder to cancel the Aramark contract and pushes for corporate accountability measures to ensure that private corporations who receive tax dollars are not “abusing the public dollar and trust on a local level.” Woodward’s resolution calls for a review of Oakland County’s contract with Aramark to provide services in the Oakland County Jail. The resolution also calls for Aramark officials to appear at a public forum to answer questions, stipulating that, if Aramark does not cooperate, it will trigger a canceling of their contract.
Woodward said that Aramark’s hiring practices are “clearly flawed” and hopes his resolution will be a model for other municipalities who want to ensure their private vendors are not cutting corners to increase profits. He pointed out that this is not just a Michigan problem and that Aramark has had problems in other states like Ohio, as well.
Ingham County Commissioner Kara Hope is also calling on Governor Snyder to end Aramark’s contract.
“Both of my parents worked for decades in corrections,” Hope said. “One of my mom’s regular duties was to ‘run chow lines.’ It is a time of day in prison that is rife with potential for chaos. So anything that adds to the chaos – like maggots in the food or food shortages – hits home for me. Anything that unnecessarily makes a corrections officer’s work day more dangerous is grossly irresponsible. And it communicates a disregard for their safety and a disregard for the work that they do every day.”
She described the inappropriate actions of Aramark employees as “offensive.”
Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, says answers are needed regarding the disposition of the more than 80 Aramark employees who are now banned from Michigan prisons. “Aramark employees were caught having sexual contact with inmates and some were found to be smuggling drugs into prisons,” he said. “Where are these employees now? Are they working in our elementary schools serving food to our children? Are they taking care of our elderly? Are they working in our public universities?. The public has a right to know that bad actors are not being sent to work with our most vulnerable populations.”
So far, Governor Snyder has said little to suggest that Aramark’s contract will be cancelled. He continues to defend privatizing & profitizing state government services to for-profit corporations who are paid with tax dollars.
Opponents to privatization know that when profits are on the line, corners will be cut. The Aramark scandals show that these concerns are completely justified and that profitizing essential government services is a flawed model that should be abandoned.