Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

May 1, 2013

In reversal, state privatizing prison food service

(Continued)

According to the Corrections Department, Aramark already employs 3,000 people in Michigan and serves meals for large companies such as Ford, General Motors and county jails. About 14,700 workers, which is more than a quarter of all state employees, work in the prison agency.

The announcement came the same day the GOP-led Senate approved a budget for the prison agency on a mostly party-line vote. Differences with Snyder and the Republican-controlled House are expected to be resolved in the next month.

Democrats criticized Republicans for their push for privatization and said the state “magically reworked the money” to show it can save money bidding out food services.

“Privatization has again become a fool’s errand and vocal point in Michigan’s prisons and correctional facilities, or at least for the legislators who set their funding. We need to trust the Department of Corrections to identify cost savings and implement reforms without weakening the care and monitoring of Michigan’s incarcerated,” said Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park.

Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said Aramark has similar state prison contracts with Indiana, Kansas and Kentucky, and in many cases hired displaced state workers. He said officials reviewed two other potential contracts that originally were deemed to not save enough money — for prisoners’ medical care and mental health care — and decided to stick with having those functions handled by state employees.

Privatizing all medical care could have been the largest privatization of state government services in Michigan history.

The state will move quickly to sign a food contract with Aramark, but an exact date of implementation was not set, Marlan said.

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Online:

Senate Bill 197: http://1.usa.gov/Zy9aEV

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Email David Eggert at deggert(at)ap.org and follow him at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

 

 

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