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New unit will monitor private contracts at Michigan prisons

Paul Wright / Flickr Creative Commons /http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Department of Corrections is setting up a 30-person unit to monitor the department's 184 private contracts for services, including food and medical treatment.

The department came under intense scrutiny last year for major problems with its food service provider.

It ended its contract with vendor Aramark last summer, after a billing dispute and a series of unflattering incidents involving prisoners and employees of the private company. A new contract was signed with current food service provider, Trinity Services Group.

Gautz says  while monitoring is already taking place, this will make it more uniform.

"You want this monitoring in place so everybody's understanding of exactly what's going on, but also doing it in a standardized way," said MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz.

The unit will also take over the auditing process that ensures the MDOC's adherence to the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

"While those were being done, it just made sense to fold that into this group as well, since they were going to be doing a lot of these functions," Gautz said.

The 30 positions will be filled by existing MDOC employees.

"So it's not a new expense for the department, but it's being reorganized and re-purposed in this way to provide this overall monitoring experience," Gautz said.

Last year, the MDOC spent approximately $250 million on its contracts.

"With so many different contracts, we want to make sure that we're staying on top of all of them," Gautz said.

- Paulette Parker, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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