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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

MDOC new prison food services contractor Aramark Corporation accused of skimming inmate meals, overbilling services

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Independent Underground News & Talk Op/Ed 

Opinions about inmates serving time in the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) would be mixed with a random sample public poll.

Victims and families might believe whatever occurs behind chain linked fences and crement brick walls of a penal facility, is justified punishment for crimes the prisoner committed while freed. On the other hand, MDOC employees who work eight to sometimes sixteen hours a day "inside" would stress treating prisoners humanely despite the crime(s) committed, is a basic human right.

An indisputable fact is prisoners are awardees of the State of Michigan. Taxable revenue received from State residents is used to provide food, clothing, medical care and shelter for men and women convicted of the harshest crimes against society.

Workers inside the Michigan Department of Corrections Penal Facilities, should have a reasonable expectation basic quality of life needs will be provided for prisoners, ensuring employees' ability to enter and leave the job without incident.

Food intake is a part of prison life. The public does not expect convicted criminals eat costly T-Bone steaks, Lobster and Ground Angus Beef for a daily meal. Yet reasonable assumption would lead Michigan residents to a belief taxable revenue provided to the MDOC ensures prisoners receive meals meeting basic Federal Food Guide Pyramid guidelines.

An article written by reporter Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press raises questions on MDOC contracted Food Services provider Aramark history on skimming of prisoners meals for profit, will now find its' way into Michigan's Department of Corrections chow hall facilities.

From the Detroit Free Press - 'Michigan's new prison food contractor accused of skimping on size and quality of meals to boost profits' - May 7, 2013:
"Aramark, the company Michigan officials have selected to provide meals for about 45,000 state prisoners, has skimped on food and overbilled corrections departments in other states, according to audit reports. 
Florida and Aramark parted ways in 2008 after the state repeatedly fined the company for contract violations and an audit accused Aramark of cutting costs and boosting profits by skimping on meals. 
In Kentucky, corrections officers and others said a 2009 prison riot was provoked by poor food service by Aramark, state Rep. Brent Yonts, a Democrat from Greenville, said Monday. 
A 2010 report by Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts Crit Luallen identified food skimping, food safety issues and excessive billings and said Aramark refused to provide requested records related to its food costs, personnel costs and bonuses paid to managers. 
Aramark told the auditor the information requested was confidential, proprietary and “not relevant to a review of Aramark’s contract.” 
Luallen disagreed, saying, “the privatization of government functions should be approached with the same level of accountability and transparency as if the government operated the services itself.” But she didn’t get the records.
In April of this year, Michigan's Republican controlled House & Senate passed and Governor Rick Snyder's signed an unprecedented $50 million dollars contract with Aramark to privatize all of MDOC's food services in 37 penal facilities statewide. Up to 370 MDOC food services employees are scheduled to be laid off permanently.

Aramark previously placed a bid to take over MDOC prison food services in 2012, but was not awarded the contract. At the time, Aramark failed to stay within the set fee of services allocation of Michigan's Department of Technology, Management and Budget (MDTMB).

Legislative Director of AFSCME Local 25, Nick Ciaramitaro representing MDOC's food services employees alluded to the possibly Gov. Snyder administration fell under pressure of fellow Republicans in the House and Senate, changing the course of action with contractor Aramark less than one year later.

“The administration is once again bowing to the farthest right wing of the Republican party,” and has improperly “massaged” the analysis, Ciaramitaro stated to the Detroit Free Press in April 2013. 
“We want to see the numbers.” Ciaramitaro replied and added that government layoffs are stalling an economic recovery that is under way in all other sectors.
Reviewing latest information available on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website Ciaramiraro assertion lends correct. Michigan has the seventh highest unemployment rate nationwide at 8.5% based off BLS data. The State's Department of Technology, Management and Budget (MDTMB) "Employment Snapshot" year-over-year reported a dip in March 2012 of 396K jobless state residents. Less than one year later, February 2013 data cited 410K Michigan citizens are unemployed representing an 0.97% rise, with the number of out of work state residents increasing by 14,000.

Layoffs of MDOC food services employees will add 370 former state workers to the unemployment roles. Notwithstanding Gov. Snyder claim in 2011, Michigan's private sector employers $
1.8 billion dollar business tax cut would offset any future cuts to state governmental worker roles, the data to date reflects the Governor's belief has failed to meet expectations.

In an exclusive interview with Independent Underground Radio LIVE on January 8, 2013, SEIU-M526/Michigan Corrections Organization (MCO) President Tom Tylutki cited cuts to food services and quality of life resources in MDOC penal facilities could pose a "ticking time-bomb" to Officers and Staff safety, working inside 37 prison institutions statewide. Listen to our interview with MCO President Tylutki below.

Independent Underground News & Talk will continue to stay on top of privatization changes to Michigan Department of Corrections and state employees working inside of the facilities.

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