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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Prison food services to be privatized

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Michigan will soon privatize its prison food services. The change is supposed to save the state at least $10 million a year.

Philadelphia-based Aramark Corporation won a three-year state contract to provide meals to Michigan's 43,000 inmates at a cost of $64 million a year.

State Sen. John Proos (R-St. Joseph) says Aramark can be more efficient because of its size.

"That buying power is such a significant buying power that we're able to see the cost of that service decreased by virtue of the volumes," Proos says.

However, Nick Ciaramitaro, a spokesman for AFSCME, the union that represents about 360 prison food service employees, says security may be jeopardized because of fewer trained staff and less supervision.

"We're talking about supervising prisoners, some of whom have been violent, in a kitchen that has sharp instruments,  and then paying them the same amount as a fast-food restaurant," Ciaramitaro says. "The reason their price is lower is because they're going to operate on two rather than three shifts. We believe it will require extra security costs or create security breaches."

Some current employees may be hired by Aramark, but Ciaramitaro says many won't accept the $10 to $12 hourly wages offered by the contractor.

It's estimated meals provided by Aramark will cost $1.27 per prisoner per day, compared to the current $2 per day.