Michigan cuts short prison food contract with Aramark after problems
Inmates at the Arkansas Department of Correction are shown on Aug. 10, 2009. (AP / Danny Johnston)
David Eggert, The Associated Press
Published Monday, July 13, 2015 11:02AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 13, 2015 11:38AM EDT
LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan has terminated a three-year, $145 million contract with Aramark Correctional Services a year after the company hired to feed state prisoners came under scrutiny for lack of cleanliness, unapproved menu substitutions and other issues, state officials announced Monday.
Gov. Rick Snyder's administration said the state and company mutually agreed to end their relationship.
Michigan fined Aramark $200,000 last year for unapproved menu changes, inadequate staffing and employee misconduct, and hired the former chief of prisons in Florida and Indiana to independently oversee the contract. There also have been reported maggot and rodent problems.
Snyder previously defended sticking with Philadelphia-based Aramark, saying Michigan was on pace to save $14 million a year through privatization. But Caleb Buhs, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, said the state and Aramark were unable to resolve Aramark-initiated talks about contract changes related to billing and meal changes.
Ohio recently renewed a contract with Aramark to feed the state's prison inmates. The company had faced criticism in that state last year over understaffing, running out of food and a few cases of maggots near food prep areas.
Trinity Services Group, based in Oldsmar, Florida, will transition to becoming the new vendor in the next two months under a three-year, $158 million contract up for approval Tuesday. The company finished behind Aramark when Michigan first privatized prison food services in 2013.
Michigan's contract with Aramark was supposed to run through September 2016. Democrats and a liberal advocacy group had called on the Republican governor to cancel the deal, saying problems were inevitable because of high turnover and lower pay for private workers who replaced roughly 370 state employees who lost their jobs in the outsourcing.
The Snyder administration hired Aramark to prepare food for the Michigan's 43,000 prisoners after initially saying the move would not save enough money. Once Republican lawmakers objected, the administration reversed course, saying mistakes were made in evaluating bidders' proposals.
"Prison food service is integral to the safe and secure operations of Michigan's prison system," state Corrections Department Director Heidi Washington said in a statement. "I look forward to working with our new partners at Trinity and am confident in their commitment to provide quality services."
In a statement, Aramark said the deal "has not worked out as both sides hoped, and that is disappointing. We are proud to have served the state during a major groundbreaking shift to privatization and delivering on our commitments to serve 65 million meals in MDOC facilities and save Michigan taxpayers more than $25 million."
Aramark, which on its website says it has retained 97 per cent of its correctional facility business in more than 35 years, said it takes "full responsibility" for its performance in Michigan prisons "while operating in a highly charged political environment that included repeated false claims."