LANSING – House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) and Reps. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) and Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) said today that the latest revelation of an Aramark employee trying to contract with one prisoner to kill another prisoner should be the final straw that cancels the Department of Corrections contract with Aramark.
“I feel like a broken record or an extra in `Groundhog Day,’” said Greimel. “What other issues need to come to light before Republicans realize the safety of our state is at risk. I would hope that my Republican House colleagues would agree with me that enough is enough and immediately cancel the contract.”
The latest Aramark employee problem was revealed today in a Detroit Free Press article about a Michigan State Police investigation of an Aramark employee at the Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula asking a prisoner to arrange a hit on another prisoner in a different facility. A prisoner came forward in July saying that the food service worker approached him about arranging the hit. The Aramark worker was banned from the facility but not arrested, and an investigation was started. Now a warrant request has been submitted to the Chippewa County Prosecutor’s Office.
“The problems with Aramark have gotten progressively worse, and now we have a murder for hire plot. If this is the kind of person Aramark hires then not even our prison guards are safe in these facilities,” said Dillon. “They are endangering employees and this is costing the state extra money. Is Aramark going to pay for the state police investigation? I’d be surprised if the state is realizing any of the savings that were supposed to come with this Aramark contract, but savings are irrelevant when you are putting your law-abiding employees in danger. Our guards and other law-abiding workers deserve better. As Leader Greimel said: enough is enough.”
Rep. Collene Lamonte (D-Montague) yesterday introduced a resolution that would formally cancel the Aramark contract. In addition, House Democrats are preparing legislation that would address the problems created when the administration privatized prison food services. Some of the bills included would demand accountability and transparency in state contracts and would:
Require that a state agency must submit a detailed cost-benefit analysis to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.
Require vendors participating in the bid process to be in compliance with all local, state and federal laws and regulations.
In addition, House Democrats will propose that:
The Auditor General audit the Department of Correction’s food service program for anticipated financial savings and performance.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections hold an immediate hearing on the Aramark contract.
“We were told that privatizing prisoner food services and giving the contract to Aramark was a good idea because it would save money, but it turns out that it’s just one more case of `you get what you pay for,” Lamonte said. “Aramark’s employees have committed one violation after another including employees having sexual relationships with inmates; smuggling heroin, cocaine and marijuana into the prison for inmates; and systemic food shortages that are putting our corrections officers at risk. Florida has already terminated their contract with Aramark and Michigan should follow suit immediately before any more moral, health or financial damage occurs.”
“Republicans can no longer argue that these are isolated incidents and that these problems can be worked out,” said Singh. “We are dangerously close, as Director Heyns said in his email earlier this year about that $98,000 fine back in March, to losing `a joint.’ We’ve gone from bad food, to sex and drugs to murder for hire. I shudder to think of what would have to happen next to get the administration to cancel this contract.”