In both Michigan and Ohio, Aramark stands accused of unsanitary food service conditions and meal shortages. Ohio announced it is developing plans to invite health inspectors into its prison kitchens to evaluate “cleanliness and food safety, just like restaurants” — a much-needed buffer of oversight for the prison food supply in that state.
But Michigan is moving in the totally opposite direction. The Detroit Free Press reports that Governor Snyder is taking oversight of Aramark’s contract away from the Department of Corrections and bringing it into his office, which is exempt from Michigan’s public disclosure laws. The unions are right to fear that this move will inevitably “shield problems with the contract from public scrutiny.” Continue reading
MuckRock announces “Private Prison Project.” Here’s why it’s so badly needed.
Last week, Muckrock.com announced it was launching the Private Prison Project: a long-term investigation of the use of for-profit prison companies to accommodate America’s exploding incarceration rate.
According to the website, which helps the public through the process of filing records requests to government agencies, the first step of the Private Prison Project will be to focus on the procurement and execution of private prison contracts:
We’re beginning our inquiry by requesting the contracts that every state has with private correctional prisons and the required corresponding contract monitoring reports. New Mexico has successfully issued fines due to breaches of contract, and it’s likely many others can do the same. We’re after the marketing materials these companies provided and the bids they placed; a questionable study done by Temple University, in part founded by the private prison corporations the study supports, argues that competition between these corporations is a good thing, but monopolies and single bid contracts are not uncommon.
Public disclosure is not just a powerful tool for reform, it’s an essential democratic right that applies to private prison contractors as much as it does the government that hired them to take over some of their work. Incarceration is inherently the duty of government, and just as we expect transparency in government, we should expect transparency from contractors that use taxpayer money to provide identical functions to that government.
If MuckRock is successful, public disclosure would remove the shroud of secrecy that allows private prisons to avoid public scrutiny and resist reform.