by Chuck Sharman
On June 20, 2023, a lawsuit accusing prison food service giant Aramark Correctional Services survived screening under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, in the federal court for the Southern District of Indiana.
State prisoner Michael Scuteri, who filed the suit pro se, is a former worker in the kitchen at Putnamville Correctional Facility. In another filing made the following day, he asked the Court to let him conduct an inspection of Aramark operations at the prison since he knows “where the bodies are buried.”
Attached to that were complaint forms provided by several of Scuteri’s fellow prisoners. One, Charles Garrett, said that he also worked in the kitchen, which was dirty and had mice. Bryan Roberts said the food was moldy “with rat turds in it.” Roberto Campos also mentioned “rat droppings in the food and urine in apple juice.”
Scuteri’s filing acknowledges instances – such as the urine-tainted apple juice – when “the food was deliberately sabotaged by an inmate.” But “instead of correcting the problem,” he said that “Aramark decided it was more cost effective to serve the tainted food to the population of the Putnamville Correctional Facility and to keep the incidents quiet.” See: Scuteri v. Aramark Corr. Svcs., USDC (S.D.Ind.), Case No. 2:23-cv-00163.
Aramark holds the lion’s share – 38% – of the entire market for meals in U.S. prisons and jails. It maintains monopolies on feeding every state prisoner in Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. The firm is a subsidiary of a massive Philadelphia-based conglomerate that also provides food service to schools, hospitals and sports arenas, in addition to a uniform-provision service and facilities management.
The firm reported serving 400 million prisoner meals in 2018. About 12% of the parent company’s $12.8 billion in 2020 revenues came from the correctional services subsidiary. It’s unclear what prison and jail officials got for that money, but expectations can’t run very high given such low costs; under the contract signed with the Missouri Department of Corrections in January 2023, Aramark collects just $1.77 for each meal served to the state’s 23,000 prisoners.
Additional sources: American Friends Service Committee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login