Human Rights

Maggots Keep Appearing in Food Prepared by Private Prison Food Vendor

A horror story of privatization.
Aramark Correctional Services, a private food vendor contracted to feed prisoners in states across the country, may have exposed inmates to food laced with maggots, over and over again.
The Ohio Columbus Dispatch reports that on June 30th food workers in Ohio's Marysville prison found a serving tray infested with larvae after a maggot was spotted on a turkey roll. The company wrote off the incident as "one issue that was resolved last week,” but the Dispatch obtained reports of two other instances in Ohio prisons serviced by Aramark. On June 24th, live maggots were reported spilling from a warming tray in a prison in Leavittsburg and in food serving lines in January. Michigan inmates in two seperate facilities were treated to maggots in the span of one week this summer, according to the Detroit Free Press. 
Aramark's director of communications, tasked with putting an optimistic spin on maggots in food, said of the June 30th complaint, "It was discovered prior to any meals being served, and our third-party auditor was on site at the facility to ensure it meets our high standards for safety and sanitation.” 
Other examples of Aramark's high safety and sanitation standards include employee sexual misconduct, kitchens overrun with mice and fruit flies and spoiled food.  
Aramark has been subjected to multiple audits, even in Southern states where public officials are generally enthusiastic about privatized prison services. A 2010 audit by the state of Kentucky found that the company watered down the food and cut ingredients from recipes, and that food shortages were a common occurance. The state decided to investigate the company following a prison riot linked to complaints over the food. Democratic Rep. Brent Yonts told reporters that prisoners claimed to have found hair balls, rocks, cardboard, bread ties, worms and human feces in their meals, according to local news sources. 
A Florida audit in 2007 highlighted by Vice found that the company was making its profit at the expense of the state. “[Feed] rates have declined sharply since the contract’s inception in 2001, creating a windfall for the vendor and reducing the value of the services provided without a proportionate decrease in per diem rates charged to the Department.”
None of this publicly available information stopped Michigan from handing over their prison kitchens to Aramark in December 2013 for a $145 million dollar contract. Ohio paid the company $110 million. Both states have levied fines against the company for contract violations. 
"Aramark’s long track record of incompetence and unsanitary conditions is well documented,” ACLU Senior Policy Director Mike Brickner told WKBN Ohio. “Officials have already tried to hold Aramark accountable by levying steep fines and that has not worked. It is time we recognize this experiment has failed and cancel the contract.”

Tana Ganeva is a reporter covering criminal justice, drug policy and homelessness. Follow her on Twitter @TanaGaneva.

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