LANSING – State Representative John Kivela (D-Marquette) has requested that a hearing to be called in the House Committee on Criminal Justice regarding the state’s decision to privatize food service in Department of Correction facilities following last week’s decision to contract with Aramark, a Pennsylvania-based company instead of continuing with the state-run system.
“It is sad that we are going to lose quality, good-paying jobs within our communities to contract with an out of state company with a history of not following through on similar contracts, such as in Florida,” said Kivela, referencing a 2010 report which identified food skimping, food safety issues and excessive billings and said Aramark refused to provide requested records related to its food costs, personnel costs and bonuses paid to managers.
The decision to contract with Aramark came after an initial analysis of bids, conducted by officials from the Department of Technology, Management & Budget and the Department of Corrections, found Aramark’s bid would not save 5 percent — the minimum required by the Civil Service Commission to privatize state jobs. But after concerns were raised by Republican lawmakers, officials identified errors in the analysis and said savings would be close to 20 percent. The move to Aramark and privatization has been considered an affront to state workers and now raises questions about transparency in the bidding process and how the changes will affect security and prison morale.
“I met with Department of Corrections officials to share my frustration and true concern regarding the decision to privatize,” continued Kivela. “I fear that this will open the door for additional drugs and weapons to enter our facilities, placing all employees and prisoners at greater risk. I will fight to ensure that the House Committee on Criminal Justice schedules a hearing so the necessary deliberations and discussions can occur and all parties are made aware of the increased risk that this move will create.”