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Troubled Michigan prison food service company keeps contract, but pays a big fine

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The company behind Michigan’s troubled prison food service is keeping its contract.  But it’s also paying a price.

Aramark’s problems have ranged from maggots in the food to food service employees having sexual relations with inmates. 

Gov. Rick Snyder today announced Aramark will pay a $200,000 fine. The governor says there will also be changes to the food service contract.     

The governor’s office plans to appoint a senior advisor to oversee the Aramark contract and liaison between the company and the Department of Corrections. They also plan to hire independent monitors. 

But Aramarkwill keep the $145 million, three-year contract it was awarded in 2013.    

“One of our main goals has always been to run state government and state services in the most efficient way possible,” Gov. Snyder said in a written statement. “To that end, we are on pace to save Michigan taxpayers $14 million per year by implementing the existing contract between the Department of Corrections (DOC) and Aramark Correctional Services.” 

Gov. Snyder says there have been mistakes on both sides during the past seven months.

Mel Grieshaber is the executive director of the Michigan corrections officers union.  He wanted the governor to dump Aramark.

“Well, to say we’re disappointed would be an understatement. We’re actually pretty mad about it,” says Grieshaber. 

Grieshaber says Aramark’s problems have become a security issue within Michigan’s prisons. Grieshaber doubts the governor’s plan to hire independent monitors to oversee the prison food system will work. 

In a written statement, Aramark officials expressed confidence that the changes in the contract will address the problems in the prison food service.

“We are encouraged by these contractual and operational changes, and are confident they will ensure a more positive and productive partnership going forward,” said John Hanner, president of Aramark Correctional Services.

Aramark claims an investigation by the corrections department found the company was not itself responsible for any “illness or infestation” at any of Michigan’s prisons.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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