LANSING — State Representative Fred Durhal III (D-Detroit) introduced an amendment today in the House Appropriations Committee that would earmark $12 million in the budget to reinstate state employees as prison food service providers. Currently, prison food services are handled by Trinity Services Group, with whom the state signed a contract after their initial partnership with Aramark was dissolved due to severe misconduct by the company and its employees. Now Trinity is facing similar allegations, at a time when numerous privatization-related scandals are turning public sentiment against corporate mismanagement. The amendment would allow 370 full-time state workers to return to prison facilities, thus ending privatization of the service altogether.
“This isn’t just an embarrassment to our state, it’s creating a growing security problem for our prison guards and the families who live near state prisons,” Rep. Durhal said in his committee testimony. “We know how dangerous prison unrest can be, and we owe it to the men and women who serve our state as correction officers to deescalate this situation.”
After privatization of food services in 2013, the state initially signed a contract with Aramark, which was dissolved when it was revealed the company’s low-wage employees were performing a number of illegal activities in the prisons, including smuggling in contraband and having inappropriate relations with inmates. Other issues plagued the contract, including allegations of rotted and maggot-infested food being served the prisoners. Upon contract dissolution, all 186 former Aramark employees were banned from prison facilities. The company that took over in August 2015, Trinity Services Group, is now facing similar charges, with 59 of its kitchen employees having been fired and subjected to “stop orders,” banning them from prison property for similar infractions.
“It is frustrating that despite the evidence in front of us — with Aramark, with the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, and now with Trinity — that privatization doesn’t work, that we still keep avoiding the obvious solution, which is to make these state jobs again,” said Rep. Durhal. “With the prison food services, isn’t just that the quality of the service we’re providing has suffered, but that it’s actually sunk to such a level that people — our nonviolent offenders, our guards and corrections officers, even the administrative staff — are actually in danger. When you try to run government like a business, you get what you pay for. House Republicans decided to view people as dollar signs instead of human beings, and now we know results. It’s time to make a change.”