The Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday that maggots were found in prisoners’ food once again at the Ohio Reformatory for Women at Marysville during a pre-meal inspection. Last week, 1,000 prisoners at the facility dumped their meals to protest the abysmal quality of food provided by the private contractor Aramark.
Corrections departments in Michigan and Ohio have fined Aramark approximately $570,000 this year for unsanitary food conditions and supply shortages at multiple prisons. There have been 9 documented cases of maggot-ridden food in Ohio alone, and Aramark is facing similar complaints in other states like Florida, New Jersey, California and Kentucky.
Thanks can be paid, in part or whole, to Governor John Kasich, who has cut 2,318 unionized corrections jobs (including food service workers) in the past three years in favor of a privatization scheme. Aramark’s contract has saved the state $13.3 million so far.
At the end of July, Aramark was given an ultimatum that they could lose their contract if they didn’t rectify the situation. The company has been allowed to continue serving prisoners despite multiple new discoveries of fly larvae in their food and the health risks that involves. The governor is reluctant to cancel the contract because $13.3 million is apparently worth more to the state than feeding its prisoners.
Aramark is not saving the state money because it is an exceptionally efficient manager of prisoners’ food. They are spending just $3.61 a day to feed each prisoner — just over $1 a meal. Prisoners are losing as much as 20 pounds when Aramark is in the kitchen. Ohio is saving money by starving prisoners.
Aramark’s $110 million, 2-year contract to serve Ohio prisons is just one of many the company has with thousands of other prisons, colleges, universities, schools, office buildings, sports arenas and more. They even own the popular online food ordering service Seamless.com.
Is $272,000 in fines really big enough of a penalty to make them change, or is it merely an internalized ‘cost of doing business?’ Even $570k does not seem like it will do much injury to the company. It’s just a bit larger than the CEO’s signing bonus.
If it’s too expensive to feed all of the prisoners a proper meal, maybe we have too many people behind bars.