Ohio wants vendor to keep feeding inmates despite problems

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio’s prisons agency has recommended a two-year contract renewal for the private vendor criticized for problems feeding inmates, including running out of food and maggots near food prep areas.

One of the elements cited in favor of Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services was that the company’s per-inmate meal cost was comparable with that of Indiana and Michigan, where Aramark also has prison food contracts, according to the state.

Aramark’s per-day cost of $3.71 to feed Ohio inmates was lower than Michigan’s $3.86 and higher than Indiana’s $3.46, according to the three-page recommendation form obtained by The Associated Press through a records request.

Most of the form involves check-off boxes and yes or no answers to standardized questions, not a detailed analysis.

The state last year levied a total of $272,000 fines on Aramark for contract violations, including running out of main courses, understaffing, inappropriate relationships between inmates and Aramark employees and a few cases of maggots near food preparation areas. The company’s performance in Michigan also has been under scrutiny over misconduct by some of its employees and food contamination issues.

Ohio officials said they were satisfied with Aramark’s performance. The current two-year contract ends June 30.

“Though there have been issues with Aramark, the agency still wants to renew for 24 months,” according to the evaluation by the Department of Administrative Services last fall.

The state says the contract has saved Ohio millions.

Aramark said it looked forward to continuing to work in Ohio.

“We have served more than 50 million meals, delivered millions of dollars in taxpayer savings and are continuously improving our operations,” Aramark spokeswoman Karen Cutler said in a statement. The company has also begun a program to train Ohio inmates in food service and retail careers.

Parts of the fines were spent on training to ensure Aramark complies with its contract. The company also agreed to an eight-hour food service training program for company supervisors, and to send supervisors to a six-day prisons training academy.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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