That’s how many reported issues were found relating to the for-profit private prison food vendor Aramark in just an 8-month period. A new report from Progress Michigan shows just how widespread the problems were and, just as important, the utter failure of the Snyder administration to correct them.
After reviewing over 25,000 pages of emails between the Department of Corrections and Aramark, Progress Michigan found:
- 2,945 Food Quality/Facility Sanitation issues
- 485 Prisoner safety/Facility Security issues
- 277 Administrative issues
But that’s not all. According to Progress Michigan, “The Department of Corrections failed to address 1,791 of the issues allowing them to become persistent or recurring in Michigan’s prison kitchens.”
Lonnie Scott, Executive Director of Progress Michigan, released this statement:
This report shows that the Aramark scandals went way beyond the damning headlines already reported. There were constant issues regarding not only the contractor, but how the state handled oversight as well. It’s clear from their own documents that the administration was unable or unwilling to hold this private out-of-state contractor accountable to Michigan taxpayers. This lack of oversight on this contract should call into question all private contracts that the Snyder administration is responsible for providing oversight.
With Gov. Snyder doubling down on his failed privatization experiment, it is important to understand that his own administration failed to hold the last vendor accountable. There is little doubt the administration’s failures will continue unless further scrutiny and accountability is applied to all privatization across Michigan.
The report makes a number of key recommendations to prevent such scandalously poor performance by state vendors in the future:
- All publicly funded entities currently using Aramark should review these documents and investigate both Aramark’s performance and their own internal monitoring of Aramark.
- The Snyder Administration should conduct a full investigation into the failure of the Dept. of Corrections contract monitors to hold this contractor accountable.
- The Snyder Administration should ask the Auditor General to conduct investigations into all vendor contracts to ensure that the failure to hold private companies doing public work accountable is not systemic throughout Michigan.
- Attorney General Bill Schuette should open an investigation into Aramark’s practices as well as the administration’s monitoring of the contract and ensure that no civil or or criminal violations exist.
- The State of Michigan should make all contract monitor reports and vendor responses publicly available on the corresponding Department’s website with 30 days of the issuance of the monitor’s report.
As Lonnie Scott says, this report calls into question ALL of the for-profit privatization efforts of this administration. Gov. Snyder and his supporters love to tell us how they are saving the state money by turning over essential state-provided services to for-profit corporations. However, with such a failure in oversight, it’s only a matter of time before the state faces a lawsuit, the outcome of which could cost Michigan taxpayers far more than any possible savings. Not only that, this report shows that, whether we are saving money or not, we’re certainly not getting the level of performance from these groups that we should expect.
It’s reporting like this that makes Progress Michigan such an essential part of our political landscape in Michigan. It’s hard to overstate just how much work goes into reading through over 25,000 documents, analyzing the data, and then producing a cogent, detailed report like this. Kudos to them for doing the hard work it takes to bring this critical information to light.