On Monday, State Rep. Matt Lundy (D-Elyria) called for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to terminate its contract with the state’s privately-run prison food service staffing company, Aramark Correctional Services. On Friday, the DRC released a quarterly report indicating that the company did not provide adequate staffing nor meet sanitary regulations and dietary needs. DRC issued a $142,000 fine to Aramark for the specified failures and indicated that the company could lose its state contract for “persistent defaults.”
“DRC’s report reaffirms to many why there was such strong initial opposition, both in the legislature and the general public, to privatizing any part of our publicly-run prison system,” said Rep. Lundy. “Instead of giving Aramark another chance to fail and further wasting our taxpayers’ money, DRC should terminate Aramark’s contract effective immediately.”
Privatization of DRC’s food services was approved during the 2013 state biennial budget process. Rep. Lundy submitted an amendment to the budget process that would have prohibited the privatization of food services at DRC and the Department of Youth Services. Ultimately, the amendment was tabled with little consideration.
“There are big concerns about Aramark’s activity in institutions throughout the state and the nation, but it is especially alarming to see what’s occurring at Grafton Correctional Institution and Lorain Correctional Institution,” Rep. Lundy added. “This utter lack of accountability and professionalism could have been prevented. Sadly, the report shows what many were afraid of—corporate interests and the bottom line are being prioritized above the state and public’s interests.”
The report indicates that facilities, including Grafton Correctional Institution and Lorain Correctional Institution, have been suffering from under staffing and “unstable” food services. The report notes that Grafton Correctional Institution was fined for having no food safety certification. The report also highlights that dozens of Aramark employees have engaged in relationships with inmates, including documented sexual relationships. 192 Aramark employees have been terminated with 76 banned from institutions statewide.
According to data from DRC, there has been a spike in contraband since Aramark took over food services, including a case where an Aramark employee smuggled heroin into the Lorain Correctional Institution.