Two weeks ago Progress Michigan uncovered emails revealing that a prison food provider served cakes nibbled on by rats to inmates. They’ve now discovered that employees from this same food vendor, Aramark, served inmates at another facility an equally unsavory meal: garbage.
In an email exchange between the company’s general manager, Sigfried Linder, and the state’s Department of Corrections, Linder admitted that prisoners at Saginaw Correctional Facility were served food that was previously thrown in the trash. “Mr. Chisolm discarded the left-overs from the line before the last half unit was in the chow hall. He then realized that there were more inmates to serve so he rinsed them off, reheated them in the oven and instructed the inmates to serve them,” read one email. “They refused, so he and Miss Gibson proceeded to serve them to the remaining inmates.”
The privately contracted food vendor, which services “healthcare institutions, universities and school districts, stadiums and arenas, and businesses in 22 countries around the world,” has come under fire for serving contaminated food and engaging in gross misconduct in prison facilities statewide. After maggots and fly larvae were found near a meal-serving line, at least 150 inmates were quarantined for symptoms characteristic of the flu. One inmate sued the company for serving spoiled meat and moldy bread. In other instances, the company breached contract by simply failing to provide enough food.
Detroit Free Press also discovered that one-fifth of Aramark employees were fired for unsanctioned sexual encounters with inmates, tried to sneak in drugs, and showed up to work inebriated.
“The fact that inmates refused to serve this food, and yet an Aramark employee felt comfortable doing so, speaks volumes about the company’s corporate culture,” Progress Michigan’s executive director, Lonnie Scott, explained. “This is just the latest — and one of the most disgusting — examples of Aramark’s incompetency in our state. The public has a right to know what is really going on with this contract and it shouldn’t take thousands of dollars and FOIA’ed documents to get the truth.”
But the company, which has fed inmates dog food, worms, and scraps of food from old meals, maintains a stronghold on correctional food service in Michigan. Despite threats to terminate its contract, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) won’t let go of the company, which claims it will save taxpayers $12–16 million. Prior to hiring Aramark, Michigan refused to partner with private food vendors that could not realistically save the state money in the long-run.