MDOC Fines Aramark For Prisoner-Employee Relationships & Menu Problems

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IONIA, Mich. (March 3, 2014)– After Michael Elliot escaped from the Ionia Correctional facility on Feb. 2, 2014 the DOC took a look at its policies and procedures and revamped some of them.

Now the spotlight is turning to the private company providing food services for Michigan’s 31 prisons, Aaramark. It took over food services in December 2013.

Less than four months later, the Michigan Department of Corrections is fining the company, citing security concerns.

The Michigan Department of Corrections reports finding 292 food and menu-related violations of contract and 12 instances of employee-prisoner relationships that were inappropriate, resulting in $93,000 in fines.

“This is just another means to makes sure they continue to meet their contract obligations,” said Russ Marlan, Spokesperson for the MDOC.

Aramark reportedly developed an action plan to address the issues.

However, the Department of Corrections sent a letter to Aramark, dated Feb. 25, saying,

“Indeed, an action plan was submitted on January 17, 2014; which indicated a plan to resolve meal substitutions and improper meal counts.”

It goes on to say, “However, during the period of January 17, 2014 and February 20, 2014 a total of 52 menu substitutions were identified to have occurred without appropriate authorization.”

“Additionally, during the same period a total of 188 menu substitutions were authorized.”

Then the letter explains how the fines are calculated for the meal mishaps.

“In accordance to the Service Level Agreements for Statewide Standardized Menu Substitutions, a charge of $26,000.00 will be assessed for 52 unauthorized meal substitutions.”

“A charge of $60,000.00 will be assessed for 240 instances that the appropriate number of meals were not prepared.”

Marlan explained that without meal consistency, prisoners get restless.

“If six housing units get hamburgers, and the last housing unit gets peanut butter and jelly…. it may seem insignificant in a hospital or a school setting food service area… but that`s very significant In a prisoner population,” said Marlan.

Marlan said there could even be a concern over fighting or riots in certain circumstances.

“Yes, it`s an important part of daily life to prisoners,” said Marlan.

The DOC took notice following a recent inmate protest when prisoners reported that Aramark ran out of food in a prison in the U.P.

“We had a peaceful protest at Kinross,”  Marlan said, “They left the housing units and walked in unison.  Thankfully we were notified about that before hand. We were able to prepare for that staffing-wise. Violence did not result,” he said.

Marlan noted that Aramark employees have also been caught engaging in inappropriate relationships with prisoners.

The state reports that from, “January 17, 2014 through February 28, 2014 a total of 12 instances occurred whereby Aramark staff violated rules….. ”

It went on to say, a charge of $12,000 was assessed, $1,000 for each of the incidents.

“Some of their staff were caught with notes from prisoners that wrote them notes,” said Marlan. “There was some inappropriate touching, one incident of kissing that we discovered inside of our kitchen facilities at one of our correctional facilities.”

“It`s a very big security issue and it`s the first step in what could be a very manipulative relationship,” he said. “You hold a position of authority over prisoners…it`s dangerous we`re not going to have it.  We are not going to allow it.”

Aramark issued a statement saying, “We know from experience that start-up transitions of this size and complexity can involve challenges and we are committed to resolving any issues as quickly as possible. We have been working closely with our partners at MDOC and are confident that we will deliver the service excellence that is expected and deserved, while also achieving substantial savings for Michigan taxpayers.”

Marlan said it’s too early to tell if this will be an ongoing issue or if it is a symptom of the transition from a state-run food service program to a private company.

He said that bringing in the private company provided Michigan taxpayers around 16 million dollars in savings.

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  • Paul

    No such thing as savings to the state. That is all smoke and mirrors! The Privatizing of MDOC food service proposal all started with Governor Granholm and then pushed on Gov. Snyder. The proposal was shot down with union facts that were presented and the legislators were the ones upset about this. They have spent allot more money implementing this than any savings could prove feasible. It was all about breaking up a union that consisted of professional level employees, for the most part, and were departmental trained. They provided many years of dedicated service and had their lives ripped out from under them so some politicians could line their pockets and fat cat pockets through investing. Do a search titled Aramark lawsuits and read some of the corruption this company was involved with. I know it costs Michigan a hell of allot more than their BS savings they are telling the public. When the prisoners come unglued the state's cost are going to be phenomenal!

  • Paul

    Forgot to mention the company is one of the top campaign contributors! That should make sense of he corruption part of it I mentioned!!!

    • Concerned person

      All these will be ongoing problems , as it was for other states that tried to use Aramark including Florida. These same issues of shortages and improper meal counts and substitutions were an almost a daily occurrence in Florida prisons. Food shortages and substitutions were a big part why they have failed in other states as well. This is how they project saving money for the states that hire them apparently. You can find some of this information about other states issues with this company on the internet. I found several when Florida had them under a contract, they were some of the same issues that are talked about in this article. I even found one where the prison offficials asked Aramark what could be done about the shortages, there response was pay us for every inmate on the compound for the normal meals i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner and Aramark would make sure that the proper portions and correct menu would be used. The prison officials agreed to try resolve the issue, it resulted in that state paying several million in extra costs for the service of Aramark for that year. We all know that all the inmates on any given compound do not always eat at any given meal. I do not know whether it is their employees creating these issues or how far up the ladder it goes. I hope for the state of Michigan they will change their ways, but it didn't for any other states that had issues with their service and eventually led to being released from their contract early in Florida. But Florida still paid for the rest of the contract although they had been released.