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Un-Happy Meal Provider Pulls Out of Kansas Prisons

In the March '97 Reader Mail section we printed a letter from a Kansas prisoner asking for information about a North Carolina corporation, Canteen Correctional Services, which had a contract to serve (un-happy) meals to (very un-happy) Kansas prisoners. An alert reader sent us a clipping from The Capital Journal (presumably a Kansas newspaper; there was no date on the clipping, though the letter was postmarked May 7, 1997) in which it was reported that Canteen (a division of Compass Group, USA) terminated its contract.

"Conditions of the contract signed with Compass Group provided for a one-year agreement with renewal options," said Kansas DOC secretary Charles E. Simmons. "Compass Group initiated recent discussions with officials from KDOC to terminate the food service contract, which resulted in a mutually agreeable decision to conclude that association."

There were "disturbances" at several Kansas prisons, reportedly caused by anger over the poor food service. Simmons told legislative committees after the uprisings that the food service contractor had "made some mistakes," like failing to provide ketchup and mustard at meals where hamburgers were served or syrup at meals where pancakes were served, and running out of the main menu item before all prisoners had been fed.

Compass Group reportedly had to pay the state $288,000 as reimbursement for overtime worked by guards because of the un-happy meal disturbances. The DOC claimed when it announced in April 1996 that it had signed the contract with Compass Group that the state would save about $1 million a year by privatizing food service at the prisons.

The KDOC, apparently undeterred by the un-happy contract with Compass Group, remains committed to privatizing its food service. Aramark Correctional Services, headquartered in Philadelphia, will begin operating the KDOC prison chow halls July 31st. [Tell 'em not to forget the pancake syrup!] Aramark reportedly provides food, laundry and commissary services to more than 185 prisons housing more than 100,000 prisoners in 30 states.

The Capital-Journal

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