Corporatism, Privatization, Rick Snyder — October 2, 2014 at 8:36 am

Aramark overseer: Sex with inmates, drug smuggling, maggots in food areas were due to understaffing


Ed Buss, the corrections official hired to oversee the scandal-ridden for-profit prison food vendor Aramark has figured out what caused Aramark employees to engage in sex acts with inmates, smuggle heroin, cocaine, and other drugs to prisoners, allow maggots in food service areas in the prisons, and attempt to hire a prisoner to kill another prisoner. You might think it was poor hiring practices but you’d be wrong.

According to Buss, it’s understaffing.

I guess that’s why he’s getting paid the big bucks (he’s pulling a $160,000 a year salary.)

Ed Buss, a senior advisor to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, said the private company was receptive to contract changes proposed by the state and will pay for them itself.

The goal, he said, is to reduce turnover, address staffing shortages and make the prison food service jobs more appealing to qualified residents.

“Staff is what alleviates all the other problems,” Buss said after a roundtable discussion with reporters in Lansing. “If you’re fully staffed the inmates can’t steal out of the kitchen. They can’t steal the food because they’re being supervised.”

Aramark employees received pay raises averaging $2 per hour last month, according to Buss. The company will increase staff by 20 percent, so that even if there is turnover, they’ll have enough workers on hand.

I’m getting the sense that Buss doesn’t realize that the issues that brought Aramark into to spotlight aren’t prisoners stealing food from the prison kitchens. Considering that nearly 100 Aramark employees are now banned from Michigan prisons for illegal activities suggests to me that an thorough review of how Aramark hires its employees might be the first place to start, not hiking their pay and increasing their numbers. In fact, if they continue on the way they have been, more employees could well lead to more problems.

But, hey, that MBA in Human Resources Management I got from the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management probably doesn’t qualify me to have an opinion, right?

So, to summarize: the way to stop employees from having sex with inmates, to ensure food areas are clean enough that they aren’t breeding grounds for maggots, to make sure there is enough food for the prisoners, to fix the problem of unauthorized food substitutions, and to keep Aramark employees from bringing in cocaine, pot, and heroin to prisoners, and from soliciting prisoners for hit jobs on other prisoners is to hire MORE employees. This is according to the guy getting paid $160K a year to make this outrageous scandal go away so that Gov. Snyder doesn’t have to admit that privatizing prison food services to a for-profit corporation was a predictably terrible idea right before the election.

I think that about covers it.

Here’s some irony for you:

Buss said Aramark agreed to cover full costs of these changes. He said Aramark’s added expense could exceed the $14 million a year the state expects to save from its three-year outsourced food service deal.

See how efficient this whole privatization thing is?

Oh, one more thing: Ohio just fined Aramark $272,000 for “improper conduct by employees of the firm” in September. Over 100 Aramark employees have been banned from Ohio prisons, too:

More than 100 food-service employees have been banned from state prisons for violations such as smuggling cellphones or drugs and sexually abusing inmates during the first year of a contractor’s deal to feed state prisoners, an investigation by this newspaper found.

Taxpayers have saved more than $13 million since Philadelphia-based Aramark took over the job in September 2013, but the agreement with the state of Ohio has been tarnished with maggot-ridden food and security concerns.

State records show 62 food workers were fired and banned from working in prisons over innapropriate relationships with inmates. Two Aramark employees “struck inmate with food” while others were accused of security violations or bringing inmates contraband.

Last month, two Aramark workers were indicted on sexual battery charges for allegedly having sex with inmates, one at Dayton Correctional Institution and the other at Lebanon Correctional Institution. One of those workers, Von Thomas of Dayton, had a criminal history that included felony non-payment of child support, drug and theft convictions.

Sanitation issues, food shortages and staffing problems have led the state to issue $272,000 in fines this year against Aramark for violations of its two-year, $110 million contract. These issues have been concentrated at seven prisons, including the the two in Warren County.

They probably just need to hire more people.