Target: Eric Holder, United States Attorney General
Goal: Demand that contractors serve only nutritionally adequate, unspoiled meals to all prison inmates
America’s increasingly privatized prison system is truly just big business. Aramark, the world’s largest institutional food company, has built much of its multi-billion dollar empire off of its contracts with the nation’s prisons. Often touted as a money-saving measure, this privatization of prisoners’ food has been at the cost of human rights. Portions are routinely too small, lacking in adequate protein, and in many cases are even moldy or rotten.
An audit of Kentucky’s Aramark contract found many reasons for concern. The company was overpaid nearly $130,000 because of favorable ‘billing errors,’ and utilized $148,000 in inmate-grown produce that wasn’t included in the contract. More disturbingly, outbreaks of food poisoning were reported when meals weren’t stored at the proper temperature; and although the state requires portion and recipe standards to ensure adequate nutrition, the audit found that Aramark did not necessarily meet the requirements.
Sadly, this is all in a day’s work for Aramark. An article on TruthDig.com described the decade of official complaints filed by one long-time New Jersey corrections officer, though little has come of them. Hundreds of Florida inmates became sick after eating Aramark chilli, as did another 50 in Colorado. Reports of maggots, mold and mildew are not uncommon. Many prisoners survive off food they purchase from the facilities’ canteens, often run by Aramark as well. And poorer prisoners don’t have this “luxury”.
Contracts at the state level have been fraught with issues, and it’s time for the federal government to step in. Demand that the Department of Justice provide proper oversight of Aramark and other contractors like them, and ensure that prisoners are served only adequate, unspoiled food.
Dear Eric Holder, United States Attorney General,
More than two million men and women are currently serving time in U.S. jails and prisons. The prison system has become a big money maker for private contractors–too often at the expense of human rights. Individual states typically establish these contracts with companies like Aramark, paying them millions in taxpayer dollars to provide food service to inmates. And at the state level, complaints and concerns over the execution of these contracts has become commonplace. It’s time for the Department of Justice to step in.
Take, for example, the Aramark contract audit conducted by the state of Kentucky, which found: inmates may have been served fewer calories than required by the state; food poisoning potentially linked to inadequate storage and preparation; overpayment for services not rendered; and that the Department of Corrections lacks a comprehensive contract monitoring process. Similar issues including the serving of spoiled food have been reported in Colorado, Michigan, Georgia and elsewhere. Aramark’s food service was so abysmal at two facilities, in New Jersey and California, that inmates went on strike in protest.
While they may be serving time for crimes committed, all jail and prison inmates still deserve basic human rights. They deserve adequate portions of unspoiled food, every meal, every day. Demand that all American inmates receive nothing less, and insist on proper oversight of all public-private prison contracts.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Lupo via Wikimedia