Report lays blame for Aramark problems with Snyder administration

Aug 18, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Government watchdog group Progress Michigan has released a report based showing that the Snyder administration and Michigan Department of Corrections were complicit in the failures of the Aramark, a contractor that provided food to Michigan correctional facilities. That's hardly news to anybody who read our July 8 cover story, "What it’s like to actually eat the food in Oakland County Jail." The story described in gruesome detail the sort of food the vendor supplied. Take this excerpt, for instance:

A convincing argument can be made that jail food should be pretty gross, but what it shouldn't be is rotten, maggot-infested, pulled out of the garbage, or gnawed on by rats. Unfortunately, that's exactly what it has been at times in Michigan's jails. Aramark, the company with which Oakland County and the Michigan Department of Corrections contracts for food service, seems intent on outdoing itself with each increasingly appalling headline. 

The report, officially titled "A Failed Privatization Experiment," is based on 25,000 pages of email communications between MDOC and Aramark. Official findings include:

• Aramark’s performance consistently failed to meet the standards set forth for quality food service, prisoner safety, and facility security. In total, there were 3,707 issues with Aramark’s performance.

 • Of those issues, Aramark and the Department of Corrections failed to address 48.3 percent of them, allowing them to be persistent or recurring.

• The Department of Corrections and the Snyder administration failed to force this contractor to improve its performance.

• The lack of meaningful accountability was a part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s governing culture that was unable or unwilling to hold the contractor accountable for its failures.

The report shows a picture of the Snyder administration that's hardly flattering, showing how the governor's office did not engage in proper oversight, and instead forgave fines and kept Aramark as a contractor long after stories had hit the press about maggots in food preparation areas, employees having sex with inmates, and Aramark workers smuggling heroin, cocaine, and marijuana into prison. 

Lastly, though Aramark has been replace by a new vendor, the report calls into question whether the Snyder administration will offer more vigorous oversight. Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said, "The lack of oversight on this contract should call into question all private contracts that the Snyder administration is responsible for providing oversight. ... There is little doubt the administration’s failures will continue unless further scrutiny and accountability is applied to all privatization across Michigan.”