On February 7, 2018, Michigan’s Republican Governor, Rick Snyder, announced plans to end the state’s privatized prison food service experiment. That’s good news for Michigan prisoners, who have ingested everything from maggots to ‘rat-nibbled cake’ over the past few years.
Snyder’s Priority: Privatizing Prison Food Service
Back in 2013, the state became one of the first in the nation to privatize its prison food service. Signing the bill, Snyder promised that the move would save the state upwards of $16 million. After he got rid of the 370 “evil” government workers who were already doing the job of feeding Michigan prisoners, Snyder brought in a company called Aramark to replace them.
A former CEO who once referred to the citizens of his state as ‘customers,’ Snyder said that privatization was the best way to manage the state’s prison food service budget. He promised that Aramark, a private corporation, would do the job better and for less money than the ‘wasteful’ government.
He awarded the company a $145 million, 3-year contract.
Many Maggots Later…
It’s no wonder. According to a suit filed by 43-year-old Christopher Velthuysen, the menu made available to the public listed:
“…Meatballs, gravy, noodles, bread, cooked carrots, and cake or a cookie – didn’t match what was on the plate.”
The inmate wrote in his complaint that his plate:
“…Contained a green and spoiled hamburger patty, cold gravy, cold noodles with a vinegar odor, raw carrots, moldy bread and a green orange in place of dessert.”
Another lawsuit, filed by a group of five inmates, alleged the food amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment.” U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist dismissed the case.
The judge decided that while beating a prisoner might constitute cruel and unusual punishment, it’s not cruel or unusual to give 200 prisoners food poisoning by serving them spoiled taco meat.
Snyder Called In A New Private Company
In spite of the fact that Aramark didn’t live up to all its promises, Snyder pushed ahead with his privatization scheme. Snyder brought in a new corporation, a Florida-based Trinity Services Group.
When the new company took over, Snyder again promised it would be better and cheaper.
Brom Stibitz, Snyder’s chief deputy director of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget said the Trinity contract would ensure:
“…Uninterrupted food delivery service in Michigan correctional facilities [while ensuring] Michigan taxpayers will continue to save millions of dollars per year, with assurance that the state will receive quality service in return.”
Never mind that the company was already involved in lawsuits because of alleged human rights violations in other states. Also never mind that prisoners in Georgia said they were being starved to death by Trinity.
It wasn’t long after Trinity took over for Aramark in Michigan that the riots and protests began. In 2016, nearly 1,300 inmates joined to protest the food served by Trinity.
Things went further downhill, as the protests turned to riots.
According to Snyder’s statement, ending the privatization of the state’s prison food service industry will create 350 decent paying, government jobs, at the cost of $13.7 million. That means that the cost is less than the original amount he promised to save Michigan taxpayers, before switching to moldy-meatball-maggot-meals.
The move is bound to save Michigan taxpayers millions, if not billions, in fines and legal fees. Prisoners will be much happier and healthier, which will make them less likely to riot or press charges for attempted murder.
Image credit: The Michigan Municipal League via Flickr/CC-BY-ND 2.0.