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Food Service Privatization in Michigan’s Prisons - Observations of Corrections Officers, Zullo, 2016

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Food Service Privatization in Michigan’s Prisons:
Observations of Corrections Officers

March, 2016

Roland Zullo, Ph.D.
Associate Research Scientist
Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy
University of Michigan

This research was funded by the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy
(IRLEE) at the University of Michigan. I gratefully thank the Michigan Corrections Officers
(MCO) for their cooperation and assistance. The MCO recruited participants, arranged interview
locations, and reimbursed participants for travel. I also thank the following staff at IRLEE for
research assistance: Breana Morton-Holt, Saku Floyd, Andrew Young, James Hendrickson and
Rebecca Maher.


Table of Contents
Executive Summary ...................................................................................................................... 4
Research Purpose .......................................................................................................................... 6
Data and Methods ......................................................................................................................... 6
A Controversial Inception ............................................................................................................ 7
Questionable Performance and Escalating Price ..................................................................... 10
Reading and Interpreting Officer Testimony ........................................................................... 11
Theme 1: Food Service Role and Changes with Privatization ................................................ 12
1.1 Food is Central to Prison Life .......................................................................................... 12
1.2 Food Quality and Quantity Declined ............................................................................... 13
1.3 Slower and Less Reliable Food Service ........................................................................... 16
1.4 Unsanitary Food Handling and Dirty Kitchens .............................................................. 20
Theme 2: Inmate Response ......................................................................................................... 23
2.1 Inmate Protests .................................................................................................................. 23
2.2 Competition for Kitchen Jobs .......................................................................................... 25
2.3 Theft of Food ...................................................................................................................... 27
2.4 Gang Control of Kitchens ................................................................................................. 30
2.5 Inmate Manipulation of Contractor Employees ............................................................. 32
2.6 Anatomy of a Set-Up ......................................................................................................... 35
Theme 3: Divisions and Contested Turf .................................................................................... 40
3.1 Neglecting the Mission of Custody and Security ............................................................ 40
3.2 Disputes over Access and Control of Kitchen Area........................................................ 41
3.3 Disputes over Inmate Worker Assignments.................................................................... 43
3.4 Disputes over Meal Counts ............................................................................................... 46
Theme 4: Risks to Personnel and Inmates ................................................................................ 51
4.1 Loss of Security Back-up Support ................................................................................... 51
4.2 Inmate Access to Weapons ............................................................................................... 54
4.3 Unjust Treatment of Inmates ........................................................................................... 55
4.4 Inmate to Inmate Conflict................................................................................................. 57
4.5 Inmate Risk due to Food, Sanitation, or Equipment...................................................... 59
4.6 Risks for Contractor Employees ...................................................................................... 61
Theme 5: Sources of Problems ................................................................................................... 64
5.1 Divided Loyalty and the Profit Motive ............................................................................ 64


5.2 Insufficient Contractor Employee Pay ............................................................................ 65
5.3 Contractor Employee Turnover ....................................................................................... 66
5.4 Inadequate Training.......................................................................................................... 67
5.5 Loss of Professionalism ..................................................................................................... 69
5.6 Unstable Staffing ............................................................................................................... 69
5.7 Poor Supervision of Inmate Labor .................................................................................. 71
5.8 Unresponsive Political Leadership................................................................................... 74
6. Interpretation and Discussion ................................................................................................ 78
6.1 Negative Reciprocating Effects ........................................................................................ 78
6.2 Limitations of the Service Contract ................................................................................. 79
6.3 Hidden and Not-So-Hidden Costs .................................................................................... 80
Appendix A: Aramark Contract Language .............................................................................. 82


Executive Summary
Prison food service is indelibly joined with the custody and security of inmates. Meals of
sufficient quality and quantity that conform to inmate dietary needs, produced in clean environs
with sanitized tools, and served punctually temperate inmate behavior, set the rhythm of the
prison schedule and are symbols of a just State. Effective policing in the kitchen and chow hall is
vital, because these are areas where inmates work, congregate and commit prison infractions.
Prior to December 1, 2013, the inmates cooking and serving food in Michigan’s prisons did so
under the supervision of a State Food Service Leader. Since then, private firms have supervised
food provision, first with Aramark and now Trinity. Using focus group interviews of corrections
officers stationed in the chow hall, the goal of this research was to elucidate how privatizing food
service affects officers, inmates, contractor personnel, and the mission of custody and security.
One theme, which corroborates media accounts, was the dramatic decline in food provision
standards. Inferior ingredients, unsanitary conditions, an absence of portion control, shortages
and menu substitutes, and disruptions or delays were universally observed. These changes
negatively affected the whole prison, and were perceived by officers as a function of the costreducing tactics of the contractor.
A second theme was the inmate response. Protests by inmates were varied in form and intensity.
Individual outbursts occurred, yet more worrisome for officers were collective protests, such as
strikes or sit-downs. Inmates also conspired against the contractor by miscounting trays, stealing
food and by engaging in other actions that disrupted operations.
Contractor employees were largely inexperienced and inadequately trained to work in a prison
environment. The authoritative vacuum created by unfit contractor employees was filled by
enterprising inmates. Inmates persuaded contractor employees to smuggle in contraband and
commit infractions, such as over-familiarity. Contractor employees were manipulated by inmates
to form alliances against officers. In some locations gangs gained control the kitchens.
A third theme was the divisions between officers and contract employees. In general, the
security-minded officers report lax operational practices of contractor staff. Kitchen tools were
unsecured, doors were left unlocked, the meal line was not monitored, and inmate workers went
unsupervised. Contract employees objected to the removal of inmates from the kitchen, and
would grant privileges to inmates that contradicted officer judgment. Officers were accused of
sabotaging contractor efforts by stealing food, and were obstructed in their efforts to make
security rounds and inspections.
Officers even performed tasks that were the responsibility of the private contractor. For instance,
to remedy unsanitary kitchen conditions, officers at some facilities supervised a cleaning crew to
follow up after the contractor. On occasions when contractor employees failed to show for their
shift, officers filled the food supervisor role. In most facilities, officers became obligated to
monitor food portions in the serving line and tray counts in order to hold the contractor
accountable for output and to prevent inmate conflict.
A forth theme was heightened risk. Frustration among inmates and power struggles to control the
kitchens spawned inmate conflict. Focus group participants could not furnish one example where
a contract employee assisted in conflict de-escalation. Thus, officers lost the security backup that
they once had with State employees, while at the same time saw an increase in need for conflict
de-escalation due to inmate anger over meal shortages and substitutions. Augmenting overall risk


was the fact that kitchen tools and byproducts of industrial food preparation (e.g. can lids) that
can be fashioned into weapons were not properly inventoried.
Fairness in a prison system is critical for maintaining order. Contractor employees could be too
lenient toward inmates or excessively punitive. Unjust punishment, along with the escalation of
inmate conflict led to higher incidents of solitary confinement. The decline in sanitation and skill
in institutional food operations negatively affected the health and safety of inmates. Trafficking
in stolen food and non-food material for manufacturing weapons increased officer stress, kitchen
rounds, inmate pat downs and spot inspections.
Contractor employees were endangered by their lack of security awareness, manipulation by
inmates, and occasionally, inmate aggression. Officers had to monitor contractor employees for
both infractions and to guard contractor employee safety.
A fifth theme was the underlying dynamic created by the focus on the profit motive, rather than
the MDOC mission of custody and security. The drive for cost reduction translated into steep
cuts in food service leader compensation, inadequate training and lower quality food. In turn, the
de-professionalization of the food service leader position was associated with turnover, staffing
irregularities, and the inadequate supervision of inmate labor. MDOT supervisors acknowledged
food-related problems, but issues communicated upward were rarely addressed and shielded from
public knowledge. Political leaders were unresponsive.
A refined comparison between public and private food provision is recommended that matches
labor and non-labor inputs, imposes identical operational constraints on the parties, and holds
providers accountable for high performance standards. Further consideration is due to the
“intangible and unknown issues” or “hidden costs,” brought to light by officer testimony. A
return to normalcy would entail the re-professionalization of the Food Service Leader position.
Once accomplished, an objective review would likely conclude that it is within reach of the
MDOC to return the food service to State operation and suffer little or no budgetary harm.


Research Purpose
On December 1, 2013, Aramark Correctional Services, LLC (Aramark) was given the
responsibility to feed roughly 44,000 inmates in Michigan’s 32 correctional facilities. 1 On July
13, 2015, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) announced it was terminating the
Aramark contract and would transition to another firm, Trinity Services Group by September 9,
2015. 2 Aramark lasted less than two years.
The purpose of this study is to understand why the contract with Aramark was so short-lived.
More generally, this study seeks to grow knowledge into how privatizing food affects prison
operations. What changes took place, and why? How did inmates respond? How were MDOC
employees affected? In what ways did privatization affect the MDOC mission of custody and
security? Central to our investigation: was the failure due to Aramark, or is private contracting
itself problematic?
To address the question about the feasibility of food service privatization, emphasis is placed on
the underlying structural and behavioral factors that accompanied the privatization of prison food.
Outsourcing any component of a prison system changes the relationships between the personnel
within the system. In particular, divergent interests between the public principal and private
contractor create barriers for inter-unit cooperation. This report describes points of tension
between the private contractor employees and others in the system, especially corrections officers
(CO) and inmates. Unlike problems traceable to Aramark, structural and behavioral factors are
likely to resurface under any contract relationship.
Data and Methods
The primary source of data is the testimony from COs working in the kitchen and chow hall
areas. Testimony from COs was obtained through focus groups during the months of April and
May, 2015, by a University of Michigan team. Focus group participants were recruited by the
Michigan Corrections Organization (MCO), Local 526M. Participants were chosen based on their
familiarity with prison food operations, proximity to the kitchen and chow hall and willingness to
share their observations. Our intent was to gain insight into how privatization affected CO duties,
inmate relations, security and custody, and the prison environment from the persons that directly
observed the transition from public to private food service operation.
Steps were taken to protect participant confidentiality and to create a research setting free of
coercion. First, the study was conducted independently from the MDOC; officials at MDOC
were not notified of the study or the identity of participants. Second, while the study was made
possible through the cooperation of the MCO, at no time was a union official present during the
interviews, which took place at off-site locations in non-MDOC facilities. Third, participants
were instructed to be candid even when their comments opposed the official policy of MDOC or
MCO. Fourth, the recruitment drew from nearly every MDOC prison facility, and in most cases
the session participants had never met. Finally, all recordings of the interviews were destroyed
after the data were transcribed, and the data will not be shared with the MDOC or MCO. 3

Contract number 071B4300009, State of Michigan, Department of Technology, Management and Budget.


Paul Egan Detroit Free Press 10:56 a.m. EDT July 13, 2015. Michigan to end prison food deal with

These conditions were approved by the University of Michigan Internal Review Board on April 3, 2015.
Approval number: HUM00100381.


A Controversial Inception
Source documents trace the initiative to a June, 2008, audit by Michigan’s Auditor General,
Thomas H. McTavish. 4 At the time, McTavish concedes that the MDOC’s “efforts to manage
food services costs were moderately effective,” 5 but nonetheless proposes privatization. Citing
the per prisoner food costs in two states with privatized food services, Florida and Kansas, 6
McTavish estimated that Michigan could save $10.2 to $38.0 million annually by outsourcing
food, 7 or approximately 0.5 to 1.9 percent of the MDOC budget. 8 MDOC officials responded
with concerns about “many intangible and unknown issues that could impact the potential savings
that Michigan may realize from contracting food services,” but McTavish replied that “these
factors are not likely to completely offset all the potential savings.” 9
With this signal, the MDOC began gathering information from potential contractors. In August
2008, the president of the union representing MDOCs Food Service Leaders (FSL), Mark Smith,
responded to the AG report. In a widely distributed letter, President Smith warned of the “hidden
costs” to privatization, citing documented episodes around the country involving Aramark with
spoiled food, inadequate serving sizes, rodent contamination, food-borne illnesses, contractor
over-billing, and contraband smuggling by employees. 10
The Michigan Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for corrections were persuaded by the
Auditor General, and incorporated language in the 2011 appropriations bill to compel the MDOC
to bid for prison services. 11 A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued in June, 2012, 12 and two
bidders responded: Aramark and Trinity.
Initially, bidders were required to submit per diem costs based on a prisoner population of 44,444.
Aramark’s bid was $3.94 and Trinity’s was $4.19. By comparison, the per diem costs for the
publicly operated food service was $4.07. 13 Thus, by this calculation, the public operation was
3.2% more expensive than Aramark, and 2.9% less expensive than Trinity. State standards


McTavish, Thomas H. 2008. Performance Audit of Prisoner Food Services, Department of Corrections.
Michigan Office of the Auditor General, Report number 471-0621-07L, June.

Audit, p. 12.


Florida cancelled the Aramark contract in 2008 after being accused of overbilling and skimping on meals
and food substitutions. Kentucky cancelled the contract with Aramark for similar reasons. Reported by
Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, May 7, 2013.


Audit, p. 13.


Based on an annual allocation of $2 billion.


Audit, p. 13.


Letter from Mark Smith to Thomas H. McTavish, August 14, 2008.


Public Act 200 of 2012. Sec. 939. (1) By January 1, the department shall release a request for proposal
seeking competitive bids for the special alternative incarceration facility, the prison stores, the food service
operations, and up to 1,750 custody beds.

RFP number 07112200059.


Food Service RFP, Proposal Pricing Analysis. February 28, 2013.


require at least a 5% saving threshold, 14 and so in March, 2013, the MDOC announced that
privatization would not go forward.
Supporters of privatization objected, asserting that the Aramark bid was at a disadvantage
because not all inmates attend each meal, and thus the actual cost of food stock was less than
three meals per prisoner per day. Choosing February as the benchmark month, a revised Aramark
bid instead assumed an attendance rate of 57 percent for breakfast, 90 percent for lunch, and 91
percent for dinner. February is the month with the lowest rate of meal attendance because the
cold keeps inmates away from the chow hall, especially for early morning breakfast.
Accompanying the revised standard was an alteration to the payment system for services. The
initial RFP called for a capitated, fixed price to feed inmates. 15 Such a pricing model would have
obligated the vendor to cover cost overruns in the event that meal attendance exceeded the 57
percent breakfast, 90 percent lunch and 91 percent dinner attendance rate estimates. In the new
payment model, the contractor was to be paid on a per meal basis, which shifted the risk to the
State if the meal utilization exceeded the forecasted rates from February. Aramark, the lead
bidder, could now safely submit an artificially low estimate for their proposal, knowing that the
State held the risk of cost overcharges. The second round bid by Aramark showed a savings of
24.55% over the public operation, easily surpassing the threshold savings of 5%. The annual
difference between public and private delivery was now claimed to be $16.4 million.
The affected union filed a complaint with the Civil Service Commission. 16 The logic of the
union’s grievance resembled the one raised by privatization advocates, i.e. that the comparison
between the public and privatized operation was unfair. According to the union, three factors
confounded the comparison.
The first disparity was in staffing. At the time, the MDOC food operation had 371 full time
equivalent (FTE) Food Service Leaders (FSL). The Aramark proposal called for 341 FSL
positions (not FTE), with most of the reduction achieved by eliminating the night shift when
inmates cleaned, prepared food and baked goods for the following day. The union claimed that
eliminating the night shift was possible without privatization.
An even greater FTE reduction was found by eliminating paid meal time at each facility. With
State operation, a custody and security practice was for FSLs to eat meals alongside the inmates.
Chow halls are locations for inmate altercations, and FSL presence was viewed as valuable to
security. By eliminating paid meals, Aramark reduced labor costs. However, the policy also
removed the obligation of contractor FSLs to eat in the chow hall and assist with inmate
incidents. 17


Standard D of the CS-138 process.


Attachment A, original RFP number 07112200059.


In Michigan, the Commission must approve all purchases for services of this magnitude. Technical
Disbursement Complaint, CS-138 No. 472S3200018.

To ask a FSL to work during non-paid time would likely be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.


Eliminating the night shift plus the loss of these meal time security hours reduced the Aramark
staffing to 269 FTE, compared with 371 for MDOC. The value of the staffing loss was estimated
at $6.7 million annually. 18
A second disparity was the use of cheaper food substitutes or smaller food portions. Early on,
Aramark signaled intent to deviate from the MDOC menu by providing inferior fare and reduced
quantities. 19 Aramark did eventually agree to match the MDOC meals in accordance with the
contract specifications of the statewide standard menu with dietary variances, 20 and contractually
the scope of work stated that the contractor will follow the standard menu. 21 Still, there were
reasons to be skeptical that the quantity and quality would match the MDOC standards. The
contract was silent on food details. For instance, Aramark did not submit recipes or information
on ingredients. An accurate comparison would have required the contractor to match food
recipes and ingredients as per the MDOC menu.
The third disparity was in the food procurement requirements. State entities, like the MDOC, are
obligated to purchase from Michigan-based businesses when other factors are equal. 22 Before
privatization, the MDOC purchased nearly all food and cleaning supplies from Michigan firms
and farms, and was a major customer of Michigan State Industries (MSI). 23
Aramark had no obligation to purchase locally, and could bypass MSI, Michigan firms and farms
to purchase from national sources. Moreover, Aramark had a prime vendor agreement with
SYSCO Foods, based in Houston, Texas, which enabled Aramark to benefit from quantity
discounts. Prior to privatization, the MDOC had negotiations with Gordon Foods Inc., for a
similar prime vendor agreement, but the talks ended when it became evident that the State was to
outsource food services. Altogether, the prime vendor agreement gave Aramark an advantage
estimated at $11.0 million annually. 24

In 2013, 1 FSL FTE was valued at approximately $65,770 based on average wages and benefits for this

For instance, the proposed menu by Aramark included the following variances:
a. MDOC provides prisoners with the option of 100 percent fruit juice at every meal; Aramark
will provide a fortified fruit drink.
b. MDOC provides prisoners with the option of 2% milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner;
Aramark will offer 1% milk for breakfast only (the meal with the lowest attendance rate).
c. MDOC offers prisoners a fruit option at every meal, up to 2 cups per day; Aramark provides
½ cup per day.
d. MDOC recipes and menus use real butter; Aramark uses margarine or similar substitute.
e. MDOC provides 4 oz. portions of Chicken Patties, Fish Patties, and Meat Balls; Aramark
proposed 3 oz. portions.


Contract 071 84300009, attachments D, E and F.


Contract 071 84300009, section 1.020, Scope and Deliverables.


MCL 18.1261, the Management and Budget Act, section 261 (1): “If consistent with federal statutes, in
all purchases made by the department, all other things being equal, preference shall be given to products
manufactured or services offered by Michigan-based firms…”

MSI is part of MDOC, and employs prisoners to make goods and services for Michigan prisons and nonprofits.


MDOC food expenses were $36,750,200 in 2012. In spring of 2012, the MDOC had a tentative prime
vendor agreement with Gordon Food Service, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan to supply the prisons.
The deal would have allowed MDOC to avoid the high cost of many MSI purchases. Optimistic internal
estimates were that the prime vendor contract could save MDOC 30 percent on food expenses. This was


The union argument was that the projected $16.4 million in annual savings from privatization
vanishes when the FTE loss and prime vendor discount advantage, both achievable under a public
model, were factored into the comparison. The union request was for a quote by the private
bidder under the same constraints imposed on the public system, whereby the staff FTE, skills,
and roles were equalized, recipes and ingredients disclosed, and materials were purchased locally.
In essence, the union argument was that in order to forecast whether Michigan benefitted from
privatization, cost and substance need be compared. The Technical Review Officer that ruled on
the case instead held that the Civil Service Commission was only obligated to consider cost. 25
Opposition to privatization extended beyond the affected union. During a Civil Service
Commission hearing in September, 2013, Michigan-based vendors to the MDOC raised concerns
about the loss of business, advocates for inmates raised concerns about food quality and nutrition,
and corrections officers expressed concerns about safety and security. 26 The Republican-led
initiative even provoked a letter signed by six fellow Republicans requesting that the State
Administrative Board reject the project. 27 Advocates for privatization nonetheless prevailed.
An evaluation could have factored in the economic impact of diverting potentially $36.7 million
in prison supplies away from Michigan business and farms. The committee judging the economic
feasibility of this venture was so empowered, as Section 3.023 (c) of the RFP stated:
“The State reserves the right to consider economic impact on the State when evaluating proposal
pricing. This includes, but is not limited to: job creation, job retention, tax revenue implications,
and other economic considerations.” (p. 83)
This sensible criterion was ignored. And so, by theoretically saving the MDOC $16.4 million
annually, the Michigan economy was poised to lose twice that figure through the importation of
food and supplies from other states. 28 By failing to consider the broader economic implications
of outsourcing, the evaluation committee sidestepped the question of whether privatizing food
service was economically wise for Michigan. The absence of any consideration for the economic
loss of business to out-of-state vendors underscored the political force driving this initiative.
Questionable Performance and Escalating Price
News accounts tracking Aramark’s performance were not positive. The overall picture was one
of a public institution, the MDOC, dealing with the problems created by privatization. The initial

based on a confidential telephone conversation with a MDOC food supervisor with knowledge of these

Office of Technical Complaints, Technical Review Decision 2013-008 for CS-138 No. 472S3200018,
issued September 25, 2013.

Michigan Civil Service Commission hearing, September 18, 2013. Online at:,4614,7-147-48041_14444_48056-303178--,00.html

Letter from Tom Casperson to the State Administrative Board, September 30, 2013.

As explained earlier, the $16.4 million figure is in doubt. As for the $36.7 million loss in in-state
business, this too is a doubtful figure because the contractor will purchase some supplies locally. Detailed
information for estimating the proportion of business that exited Michigan was unavailable.


State response was to grant Aramark leniency for contract violations, and allow Aramark to bill
the State at a higher rate than projected by the initial agreement. 29
News sources suggest that the tipping point came when Aramark demanded a substantial payment
increase. In May, 2015, Trinity was invited to perform a “benchmark review.” That July it was
announced that Trinity would replace Aramark. 30
The contract with Trinity included several concessions to privatization, including: an additional
$13.7 million over the three-year deal, 31 higher meal prices, the removal of an inflationary cap for
future price increases, the removal of industry experience as a qualification for new hires, and the
elimination of security duties, such as prisoner pat downs. 32
Thus, Aramark’s failure did not trigger a reconsideration of the merits of privatization. Michigan
leaders instead handed control over to the second place bidder from the initial tendering round,
Trinity, under more lenient terms. A 2015 preliminary report by the Michigan Auditor General
estimates that payments to Trinity will be about 15.4 percent higher than payments to Aramark. 33
And in January, 2016, in response to food privatization problems, the MDOC announced that it
would create a new unit of 30 persons to monitor MDOC private contracts.
Reading and Interpreting Officer Testimony
The following sections present the themes and sub-themes from CO testimony. To the extent
practicable, direct quotes from participants drive the discussion, and these are shown in italics.
Interpretative comments by the author are in regular type, and with the exception of the final
section titled “Interpretation and Discussion,” precede the relevant CO statements.
Edits to bring greater clarity to CO statements are in [brackets]. The symbol … was inserted for
sections of a CO quote that were eliminated to reduce the length of the text. The underscore
symbol _____ represents a deleted reference to a person or place that could potentially identify
the respondent.
Some CO quotes are singular statements, while others are a conversation involving two or more
persons. To distinguish these for the reader, the start of each conversation is marked by a bullet
point. Conversations involving multiple participants will begin with a bullet point and present
subsequent comments as paragraphs below the initial remark.


Michigan was billed $200,000 per month above what was anticipated. Comment by Caleb Buhs in
“Prison food bill to go up $13.7M with new vendor,” Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, July 18, 2015.

Prison food contractor Aramark wants a raise. Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, May 22, 2015


Prison food bill to go up $13.7M with new vendor, Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, July 18, 2015.


Aramark scope in Contract 071B4300009 reads “Provide accurate prisoner count on regular and routine
basis and report those counts to the facility point of contact.” This requisite was replaced by “Perform a
thorough search and inspection of prisoner work areas on a regular routine basis” in the Trinity scope:
Contract #071B5500118.
The requisite “Perform shakedown/pat search of prisoners or work areas on a regular routine basis in the
presence of a MDOC Correctional Officer.” Was in the Aramark contract, but removed for Trinity.

AOG, 2015. Prisoner Food Services, Department of Corrections. State of Michigan Auditor General,
Lansing MI, December. See page 7 for weekly expenditure estimates.


Theme 1: Food Service Role and Changes with Privatization
This section presents testimony on the importance of food service to prison operations. Also
discussed is how the food operations changed under private management.
1.1 Food is Central to Prison Life
All focus groups remarked upon the centrality of food to prison life, often connecting food
directly to security and perceptions of justice. Inmates are sensitive to food quality and expect a
decent meal that conforms to the posted menu.
 L2-85: It’s the security, but it all starts from the food….
 W3-1: You get bad food, they [inmates] get agitated. They get pissy, especially when it
starts getting warm out, which just makes our job harder, having to get everything under
control, trying to keep things normal.
 T2-12: These people [Aramark employees] are flat ignorant about security issues and
how it reverberates on the yard and the housing units. Things will start in the kitchen and
somebody will get hurt on the yard because of the way Aramark attempted to handle it.
 P3-1: The temperature of the food--old food, cold food is a big problem in the kitchen.
They want their food, they want it warm, served at the right temperature, not getting
warm lettuce, or cold corn…
 M5-15: The food is so important. I mean we take it for granted like, ‘Oh, just run to the
store. We’ll pick up some more.’ But those guys [inmates] they look at that holiday meal,
like it’s posted in their unit. ‘Oh, I can’t wait.’ You know. ‘Oh this day is Pizza Day,’ or
‘This day is _______,’ or whatever, anything. And they….that’s what they look forward
to. They have not much else to do.
Serving meals on schedule is critical for meeting the daily prison agenda. Inmates arrive at the
chow hall in shifts, and when they are finished engage in a variety of rehabilitation activities.
When food is inefficiently served and the meal shifts become delayed, the prison schedule is
 D1-67: The whole schedule. Everything is scheduled around food service.
GG1-67: Right, and then if food service runs long, then like I said everything, some
things get cancelled, and at our place, treatment and stuff like that is very important, you
know. So if we have to cancel the Treatment Mall, which is the place where they go for
activities, then you know it looks bad, and we don’t want to do that.
 D3-29. When you take and throw a wrench in the schedule, and these prisoners, if at 4:00
in the afternoon, he knows he’s supposed to go out on the big yard and he’s still in the
chow hall, it totally discombobulates these guys. I mean, you’ll see they’re head spin,
like you know, I’m supposed to be out on the yard right now, and I’m still in here, and it
just throws their whole day out of wack..
 A5-7: And like _____ said, the time is structured for the facility. You can’t………they
have to feed them first, then they start the programs after the chow lines are done that


they have to go to, and then their yard time comes in, and as things drag out from one
meal to another, it’s the same for the breakfast meal, the lunch meal, and the evening
meal. Nothing happens until the meal is done. That’s what makes the meal so important.
The food is so important. The feeding time is so important, just everything that happens
around the meal time. Nothing happens during meal time. Programs run during the day
and the evening, as those meals drag on and on and on, those things get pushed back and
sometimes they’re cancelled.
Another common sub-theme is related to the inmate activities in the chow hall. Kitchen and
chow halls are where inmates commit various forms of violations, such as theft, the exchange of
contraband, and physical violence. It is therefore critical for officers to have access to kitchens, an
unobstructed view of the chow hall, the ability to inspect areas and equipment and the authority to
discipline inmates.
 L1-5: That’s where they [inmates] do their dirty deeds.
T2-5: Not only do we need to have access so we can observe the employees and the
inmates, what they’re doing, but there’s also security as far as contraband being stashed.
We have to be able to shake-down for security purposes. When we do sweep through the
kitchens, we find weapons. We find stolen food with spud juice anything like that, and if
they know that we can’t get into an area, that’s where they put it.
 G1-22: The kitchen is the number one contraband point in probably any facility out
there. It should, you would think that it would be the most controlled. It should be the
most controlled, and now it’s not. It’s the least.
D1-22: They move all their contraband, dope, heroin, marijuana….
G1-22: It’s a distribution point.
1.2 Food Quality and Quantity Declined
Participants unanimously observed a decline in food quality with privatization. Although the
contract specified standard recipes, deviations were common. Ingredient fillers were added and
meals were diluted with water in order to stretch food rations. Expensive ingredients, such as
seasonings, became scarce. Dietary standards were not met.
 D1-39: The spaghetti recipe was 256 lbs of hamburger. It took so many cans of sauce, so
they had the protein count, but now they’re only at 150 lbs of burger. They just put less
burger in.
 MC2-11: Oh I’ve seen where they’ve had water to add to the gravy. To the gravy, to the
soup, whatever it is they’re just adding water…….to pizza sauce watering it right down.
 L2-23: The gravies are water because let’s say the recipe calls for 4 cups of flour for
every pound of meat to make the gravy sauce or whatever it is. Well they’ll just get the
quarters to save money by, ‘We’re only going to give them 2 cups of flour to start into
this thing for this ratio…’


 B5-19: What they [Aramark] don’t understand [is that] the recipe card … states it for
how many lbs. of meat, say 50 lbs., but when you go and pull 270 lbs. of meat you have to
adjust those seasonings [proportionately]. They made taco meat one day. They put a cup
of chili powder in 250 lbs. of taco meat. I said, ‘That’s all you going to put in there? You
didn’t read the cards right.’ ‘Oh no, no, they said go by the recipe card.’ ‘Yeah, but you
didn’t adjust it by the amount of meat that you made times the recipe card.
 S4-17: They’ve kinda gone to taking a lot of the spices and stuff, the flavorings, out. The
food has become pretty bland.
 P3-51: … even like when they’re doing diet trays, if it says 2 tomatoes they don’t have
tomatoes. The prisoners are, I mean they can be pretty good, but when it comes to food,
that’s one way to piss them off, and when they don’t have tomatoes they don’t give them
anything else either. ‘Well, I’m sorry we don’t have tomatoes.’ ‘Well, that’s our dietary
food for the day,’ or whatever is supposed to be on the trays.
In some instances the food reduction was systematic and deliberate. Portion sizes would often
diminish as the final inmate shifts attended the meal.
 J1-40: …we had chicken on a bone the other day, and it’s supposed to be a quarter, you
know like a chicken quarter?
RZ1-40: Yeah.
J1-40: It looked like it came off a pigeon.
 S2-12 [The menu specifies that] they get 1 cup of noodles and a half cup of sauce. So
they’re [Aramark] trying to conserve. What they did was they put the … sauce with the
noodles, and they were giving them one cup of that. Well, technically in a scoop form it’s
supposed to be a total of 1 ½ scoops, so if you’re putting the sauce with the noodles, then
they should get 1 ½ scoops of the spaghetti.
 G4-18: For the officer working on the raw feeding is getting trays thrown at them. For
the officers that are level 1 who have to stand in the serving line when they were serving
big scoops of pop up meat and now they find out they’re almost running out so they drop
the sizes of the scoop by 2 and all these other inmates see that they have about half. And
everybody’s in there bitching and now there’s another officer who has to deal with this
 T5-20: There’s a lot of times I look at their recipes as their producing their food. Their
supervisor will give them a recipe to serve 900 prisoners. Our institution holds 1100
normally, and depending on which meal it is, they will add water to all of their stuff to
make their products stretch.
Officers observed improperly prepared food, the use of potentially spoiled ingredients, and the
presence of foreign objects in the food.
 J1-5: On some days if they don’t run out, there will be other problems with the food.
Raw, undercooked, sometimes burnt, sometimes it’s soupy. If they don’t run out, they
screw it up somehow.


 J4-16: We have what they call cabbaged casserole, it’s meat and cabbage. And there was
an afternoon shift at our facility that got so bad where the supervisor had to come down
with a camera to take a picture of the portions on the tray because the cabbage casserole
was so watered down it’d be all over their tray. Other things were the grits in the
morning, undercooked. They’re not checking to see if they’re fully cooked.
 D3-39: At our facility they take the whole dried up potatoes that have been in the freezer
or whatever, the cooler for I don’t even know, at least a day or two days, three days, and
they’ll mix them in with the other potatoes and put extra butter across them…to disguise.
 P3-47: I’ve seen a bug that big in them collard greens, like I couldn’t even handle it. A
perfect big ol’ bug right on the collard greens.
RZ: A well-cooked bug?
P3-47: Well-cooked bug.
D3-47: I watched a prisoner pull a rock out of his mouth… Wasn’t 2 feet over from me
where I scan my ID’s, and he’s like, I heard him…., ‘What in the…..?’ And he reaches
into his mouth and pulls a rock out bigger than a pea….*tink* drops it on the table *tink,
tink, tink*I was like, ‘What is that?’ And he says, ‘It’s a rock.’
B3-47: We had spaghetti one day, and one of the officers came over and he was eating,
and he pulled a mop string out.
Fairness in a prison facility is vital for minimizing inmate conflict. Inconsistent portion sizes
(small portions or double servings) can be perceived as a form of unjust punishment (or reward)
that aggravates inmates.
 GG1-38: But from them it’s the proportion. Their smaller. Smaller portions of food, and
they come down and they say, ‘This is it? This is what I come down here for?’
 T1-10: They’re [Aramark] concerned if somebody got an extra scoop of something, if
somebody grabbed an extra milk, or you see something like that, they’ll go run after
them, but if you see, they see their employees goofing off, doing absolutely nothing, it’s
just like they don’t say nothing to them. It’s all about the bottom line; can’t give away
that extra scoop.
 D4-44: Because his buddy belongs to the same clique, and he’ll [Inmate worker] give the
guy two pieces of cake. So when the next two guys don’t get two pieces of cake and he
goes and sits down, and when they sit down they hand their cake off to anybody who
want, but when a guy comes off and he’s got two pieces of cake and a piece of fruit and
the next guy just gets a piece of cake and doesn’t get fruit or two pieces of cake. So down
the line they’re running out of cake well it’s because you’re serving two pieces of cake to
half the guys that came through here and then you’re making or getting off frustration
level up of the guys that’s not getting the double portion.
J4-44: The state [workers] would actually watch the line and make sure people were
getting the proper portion where Aramark they just kind of stand back and they just
watch and a prisoner will sit down and put his tray down and walk right back to the line
and grab another tray right in front of them and then go back and sit down. Where a state


employee would have, they would have stopped him and said hey give me your ID and
your ticket. Well you’re blind and they [Aramark employees] don’t care like as much as
the state employee would.
 B5-34: You know the guys [Inmates] have been feeling like they’ve been getting shorted,
and you feel the tension, and you’ve had that back-turn thought that one day these guys
are going to lose it. We’re going to lose one of these prisons….staff is going to get hurt,
and one way to curtail that from happening is to give these guys enough food. Why try to
cut them short? And if you’re trying to make the shortage by not making so much, so you
only made 1100, and now you trying to stretch that 1100 to feed the 1280 or the 1230
that might come… makes their portion smaller. If you give them enough portion, 50%
of your problem is taken care of right there, as far as you know, whatever they might
decide to blow up that day.
1.3 Slower and Less Reliable Food Service
Participants discussed the importance of punctuality in meal delivery. Of the operational changes
with privatization, food shortages were especially common and disruptive.
 MC2-11: You’re always running out. It’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, it doesn’t matter what
shift it is.
 M5-5: Well, they’re pretty much set up with some structured time frames. I know when
we work 12-hour shifts, just _____ and I, we run late and it runs over every hour, you
know, it runs late, and then 3rd shift comes in, and they don’t have the coverage to cover
our Chow Hall, and it leaves security risks all the time. It’s not only around the food. The
other day, they stopped chow lines to start cleaning. There were eggs, there was cheese
all over, just a mess, and you know it’s kind of like you should kind of clean while you’re
going, but they stopped the lines and I’m sitting there, ‘What in the heck is going on?’
And they [Aramark employees] just don’t understand what happens next….how it’s so
structured…. This happens, this happens, this happens, this happens…..when you get that
out of order, it just screws up their [inmates] whole day, and makes it hard for them to
adjust and it comes at us, chaos……
 P3-29: And that’s the big thing to notice is that the chow lines take forever to run. The
state of Michigan ran them, boom, we ran chow lines we were done. It was over.
 G1-4: When they [Aramark] run out of food, and that’s almost on a daily basis they run
out of something. And when the state had their workers, they never ran out. They made
sure they had enough.
Poor planning might have been a partial explanation. Former state employees would prepare food
based on a forecast that erred on the side of making more than necessary, so generally the food
amounts were adequate and shortages were rare. Leftovers were stored and later used for other
meals. This practice changed with privatization.
 D1-16: See, the state workers, we counted trays, and that’s how we knew how many
would eat. So, that’s how we kept track of what we fed, is we counted trays. And, the old,
the old state employees would get the log book, and the state feels, feeds in a cycle. The
meal just goes over and over, but you keep track of each cycle. If you fed 1,050 on this
cycle, and the last cycle you had 1,025, you make 1,075 portions, then you know you’re


not going to run out. Aramark doesn’t do that. They don’t keep track of nothing, and so
that’s how we always run out of food is they don’t keep track because you know when you
have chicken day, if there’s 1480 inmates, you better cook 1500 pieces at least.
 L2-22: But they…..instead of making 1900 portions, they’ll go in there, and now we’re
going to, ‘We’ll be alright. We can make 1600 portions of waffles because the last time
we made them, we had only made 1800 portions, and we had 300 extra portions,’ ok.
They didn’t take into account that hey, at least 35 below that day in a blizzard that
nobody wanted to come out to or, they’re not taking any of these things into account.
They’re looking back at the last 3 times they served it. They’re not taking into account
that it was 104 degrees today, and nobody wants to eat when it’s that hot or whatever it
is. They’re not taking these things into account, so they’re saying, ‘Ok, we want to serve
1500 servings of this terrible meal last time, so now we can get away with making 1300
servings of it.
 D4-47: yeah I was in the kitchen last weekend in the midnight shift and went out to get
cereal with the cart and had somebody go out to the warehouse and they come back with
an empty cart because they didn’t have any cereal out in the warehouse.
RZ4-47: Because it was stolen?
D4-47: No they forgot to order it and they weren’t paying attention to their stock.
J4-47: Same thing at our facility. Daily or I shouldn’t say daily, but 3 or 4 times a week
they’re going down to the warehouse to bring something in that they didn’t order and put
on a truck to come in or they come back and they got nothing because they didn’t have
anything in the warehouse.
Food shortages were also a function of contractor efforts to minimize waste. Contractor
employees were instructed to “progressively cook,” which meant preparing food for a low
forecasted attendance, and then preparing additional food as the need developed. Progressive
cooking is an aggressive approach toward minimizing leftovers that errs on the side of under
producing for daily demand. The result was often a harried effort to feed inmates arriving from
later shifts.
 B5-9: Certain meals they’re going to run short on anyway, sloppy joe…..for some reason
they don’t bring enough beef for them. The card will say put out 360 lbs, 350, they’ll put
270, and I’m like, ‘Why would you pull 270 when it says pull 360?’ ‘We’re going to
progressively cook.’
RZ5-9: What is progressively cooking?
B5-9: When you get halfway through, you look to see if you went through 135 of the 270
lbs of meat…and then see how much more you need to cook.
 J3-39: … now the Aramark supervisors, are telling the employees to progressively cook,
and they’re using forecasting. What it is, is we’re on a rotating menu, ok. So we have hot
dogs, that come around [periodically]…. The last time we served cheesy rotini, we sold
700 and something trays, ok. So that’s what you’re getting. He’s telling these Aramark
employees, the red shirts, that the line…..


D3-40: This is all you make.
J3-40: And they only give them enough food to make 700, let’s say 700 batches because
that’s what we served last time when we prepared this meal.
B3-40: That’s where the extra time comes in sometimes….
J3-40: Right, so that’s what they do is they make that number of rations, and then if 750
decided to eat that day, that’s where we’re running short and we, they’re having to
prepare more food or, in which is holding up chow lines, it’s holding up the production,
you know, the stability of the facility.
 T5-13: They constantly, at least once a day during lunch or dinner, are running out or
not making enough, and they pull stuff from the freezer to try to make up for it, well……it
takes a while to thaw meat, so it does delay the dinner lines. Usually it’s the dinner lines
that are always affected worse probably because the breakfast and lunch were behind,
not allowing the inmate cooks to start preparing the dinner meal on time.
Schedule delays due to food shortages were described as a daily occurrence. To move inmates,
Aramark would often resort to meal substitutes. Delays and substitutes stirred inmate anxiety and
 A5-11: We [officers] walk around and see what’s on the serving line, we walk back in the
kitchen and go, ‘Holy shit. We aren’t going to make it. We’re going to be running an
hour late……’ because they haven’t pulled 100 lbs of meat out, and that 100 lbs of meat
that they got to get out comes out of the freezer, and now they have to come thaw it out
and then cook.
 J4-7: The prisoners [filled out a] slip on how much stuff they had to order for the meals,
and he [Aramark supervisor] would cross stuff off and say we don’t need it because it
costs me money and it’s not in my budget. One time we had a prisoner put down 80
crates of milk and he [Aramark] crossed off 80 and put down 75. And we ran breakfast
lines prisoners were bitching because there was no milk for their cereal and this
disrupted the unit; the last unit for probably 45 minutes until a truck came from the
 D4-6: …if something’s ten minutes behind it sets off everything else. We come in and lock
down from chow, do counts, and boom you got school going out and you got small yards
going out. They [inmates] go to their day rooms, their different activities. So if they’re
[Aramark] running out of food, which happens a lot at our facility…, they have to wait
until they get food cooked or they have to make something different quick and substitute.
One time we had turkey dinner, some guys got pizza because they run out and the last
guys got peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So you got three different meals being fed so
the guys who got peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are mad because they didn’t get the
pizza and some of the guys got the turkey would rather have had the pizza. So they get
pretty upset and that’s one of the main things.
 GG1-28: They [inmates], you know, they get upset. They’re like, ‘Where’s my…’ you
know, ‘Where’s my waffle?’ ‘Where’s my sausage?’ ‘Where’s my….’ you know, ‘Where’s
the butter at?’ ‘Oh, we ran out, sorry.’ No, you didn’t run out, you just didn’t bring


Another waste minimizing innovation by Aramark was to allow inmates to choose the food items
they wanted during the chow line. Under state management, inmates received a standard tray
with all items, of which inmates could either eat or discard. This change added to the meal line
delays. Meal delivery disruptions and delays negatively affected all corrections.
 P3-28: And that’s another thing I noticed too, is back in the day, when the states served a
tray, they served a tray. There was no requests, no if, ands, buts, if you didn’t like it put it
in the trash.
W3-28: Everything was put on the tray and it was the end of story….
P3-28: You don’t have to eat it. Now Aramark’s trying to save their pennies so they have
to ask for a salad on request, they have to ask for this on request, so the chow lines go
twice as long, I don’t know how long you guys’ chow lines are…..
W3-28: 3, 4 hours.
P3-28: Ours can go anywhere from 2 to 2 ½ to 3 hours to make what they’re serving.
RZ3: Ok, so they’re slower?
W3-28: Oh yeah.
P3-28: Yes, because they have the prisoners asking for requests they’ll get in line, the
prisoner says, ‘Well, I wanted a salad.’ ‘Well, you didn’t ask for it.’ Oh, tray goes back
down the line, salad gets put on, tray goes back down the line, by this time it’s a hold up
you know.
 RZ4-6: And what happens then when the food service gets disrupted? If something goes
wrong and food isn’t being served?
G4-6: Well it holds up the whole system of the prison from when they got to go to school
from when yards are run to everything that goes on.
RZ4: How about how common is that?
All: Daily.
S4-6: Almost every meal is an issue.
G4-7: And that’s our level 1 is. But we have a truck that takes it down. And we run into
that same problem and it disrupts the whole level 1 because they’re short. I worked in
overtime a couple weeks ago where they brought food down to check anything so she gets
down there and I’m standing there with inmates all over waiting to eat. And she’s
running out to the gate and the whole Aramark crew is bringing food because she didn’t
check and they didn’t have half the stuff in the carts. They’re out there making food and
they looked in the cooler and it’s all sitting right there. By the time we were 45 minutes
late by the time they figured everything out. And now I got a whole half a unit of inmates
sitting in there bitching because they want to eat.


1.4 Unsanitary Food Handling and Dirty Kitchens
Pressure to minimize food waste led to improper food handling practices.
 B5-78: We had one incident, they had their produce truck come in, and one of the guys
unloaded the potatoes, one guy cut his hand, the middle of his palm, a 2 ½ inch cut, and
the bags were wet… he didn’t know his hand was cut, on like 16 bags of potatoes, 50 lb.
bags of potatoes, and they came out, I said, ‘Why is your hand wet? You’re bleeding.
How did you cut yourself?’ ‘I don’t know. I did feel a sting a little bit.’ ‘Where did you
cut it at?’ I go in there and it’s like……I said, ‘It’s one of them bags that’s got blood on
them. Get them on the cart, bring them out here, and throw them away.’ The [Aramark]
director said, ‘No, you can’t throw that away. It [blood] didn’t go through [the bag].’ I
said, ‘Lady, the bag is wet, that’s blood. You can’t do that. I don’t know what his health
concerns are or what his problems are. He could have hepatitis. It’s going in the trash.’
She’s like, ‘That’s 16 bags of potatoes.’ ‘Yeah, 800 lb., it didn’t come out of my pocket,’
and I said, ‘…it’s going in the dumpster. She said that the potatoes could have been taken
out, and put into big barrels and just soak them in water.’ No, once blood has touched it,
it goes in the dumpster.
T5-79: Yeah, there’s been quite a few incidents at _____ where Aramark was pulling
chicken out the pan for the following day’s dinner, and they’ve actually observed them
and made them toss out basically all of the chicken legs and thighs they had panned up.
They were thawing the bricks of chicken in hot water in the kettles, and then throwing
them on the sheet pans while they were raising the temperature of the chicken up to
about, I think the highest temp was 101, but once you start the cooking process of,
especially like chicken or something like that, you either need to get it fully cooked and
then put it back in the cooler, and bring it back down, the temp within 4 hours, or you
can’t bring it above 42 degrees, and they had this chicken all hovering in the 90’s
because they were using hot water to break it apart, and they weren’t too happy about it,
but they ended up throwing out all of their chicken legs and thighs, and that’s happened
actually like 3 times……twice with the same person….
 S4-21: I got all kinds of documentation of stuff, security issues, sanitation issues,
outdated food and I actually got a picture of a memo from one food steward to another
from Aramark saying that to make sure that they change the dates and times, the expired
dates, on foods in the cooler.
RZ: So you confirmed that they were changing the expiration dates on the food? So they
didn’t have to throw it out?
S4-21: Yes I have. The same day that they had burger, we threw 180 pounds of meat out,
because when they probed it before they cooked it, it was 58 degrees already. It had sat
out too long or wasn’t unfrozen properly and they ended up throwing it out. One day I
found bunch coleslaw that was just about two weeks outdated. I think there was 8 pans
and I threw it out and that day they were 60 pounds shy for the cabbage casserole and it
was the coleslaw what they had found was outdated. So they did get rid of it but then for
that meal for that afternoon they were 60 pounds shy for cabbage casserole so I’m
thinking it can’t prove it, but I’m almost positive that’s where that would have gone.


There was universal agreement across the focus groups that the kitchen areas became less sanitary
with privatization. Officers have a right to eat meals, but often declined because they did not trust
food safety. Inadequate sanitation attracted pests.
 A1-10: Cleanliness is horrible. Horrible. I don’t know how it passes any kind of
inspection. It’s ridiculous.
 W3-5: One of the things I’ve noticed since the switchover—when we had our state
workers working, you could almost eat off the floor in that kitchen. There have been days
when I’ve walked in after the chow lines and everything’s done have been swept and all
that, I wouldn’t want to walk on that floor, there’s just so much… I mean, filthy. I still eat
in there from time to time but not very much anymore. Just because, I mean I’ve had
issues when I would go home sick just after eating. I just generally don’t eat in there very
much anymore.
 H5-43: When I call the workers over at 4:30 in the morning, I’d say 4 out of my 6 days, I
have to get a prisoner to clean the table for me so I can sit at it to do my paperwork
because the tables are nasty. … the utensils the prisoners eat off of, the plates they eat off
of, our site trays, they stink, they’re dirty. To be honest with you, I don’t know why the
prisoners haven’t rioted already because if I was a prisoner and they served me food on
these trays, I wouldn’t eat. Our kitchen stinks….
A5-43: Never stunk before…..
 M5-60: I make my own food, kind of go in the diet line and combine a few things, but as
far as overall, yeah, there are not many people that are eating.
T5-60: At my facility, I obviously work in the production area, there’s some stuff that I
just refuse to eat because I see how it’s prepared, what they use to prepare it, things
along those lines, and I will pass that on to the officers that are coming into the Chow
Hall eating like, ‘Hey, you might want to stay away from the coleslaw today.’
A5-60: Cleanliness is a real issue, in fact, there’s probably only two people that, on 1st
shift, that eat in the Chow Hall, and I don’t think anyone on 2nd shift does, and I advise
all of my new employees, all of my old GT’s, bring your own lunch.
 T2-61: … I come in and the floor drains will be plugged with pieces of onion and peppers
and stuff. I’ll have standing water out on the serving line where I’m supposed to put a
meal out for staff, I have to grab the squeegee and clean it off because [Inmate workers]
refuse to do it. It’s horrible. You can’t overstate how bad it is. Our mice are leaving trails
on the floor because their bodies are dragging. Yeah….you can’t enter a room without
seeing mice scatter.
Participants attributed the worsened environmental standards to ineffective management of
inmate labor. Lack of knowledge on institutional sanitation practice was also noted. Participants
connected the decline in sanitary conditions to economic motives; cleaning activities and supplies
were reduced to save money.
 D1-10: As an example, when we had state workers in there, when chow lines were done
and everybody had their stuff down, every inmate was scrubbing the walls, scrubbing the
pipes, scrubbing the floors.


 MK2-61: The old food stewards had a schedule, like under sides of the table you got to
clean with you know, every week. This gets cleaned every week. With Aramark, they don’t
have none of that.
 P3-19. One of our big things is when we run out of Pan-Tack, which is a dish soap, they
run them through hot water….they run through the water. That’s how they clean the
RZ: With no soap?
P3-19: With no soap. And they’re serving the trays, and that’s how they’re sanitizing
trays is through water, and they bring them right out to the lines because they’ve been
out of Pan-Tack for 2 or 3 days…..
D3-19: And you got to understand that we have a slew of viruses in the prison system
whether it be AIDS, Hepatitis, you name it, we have all of that.
 GG1-11: I mean we did a test. We put a tic tac on the floor, and it stayed there for a
whole week, in the same place. … we had to say something, you know. This floor hasn’t
been clean. ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah it has we cleaned it.’ No, that tic tac’s been there for about
a week. You have not cleaned it.
 T5-45: At our facility, they’re constantly cutting back on supplies they need to even
properly clean the food service building. Obviously they save overhead so they don’t go
over their budget or they’re trying to meet their budget. I don’t think they ever have
actually hit their budget at our facility yet. There’s a lot of times, we’ll have to call the
housing unit to get the green scrub pads because Aramark doesn’t have any. They’re
constantly running out of soap either for the dish machine, hand soap, soap for the pots
and pans room…….Aramark’s staff would have to run down to the dollar store to pick up
some bottles of Dawn or whatever they can get a hold of so they can scrub the pots and
pans. At times, we went I don’t know how many weeks without brown napkins for the
handheld dispensers. They were giving everybody white napkins, which don’t work very
well when washing your hands, and that was for 2 weeks straight. They constantly run
out of cellophane for wrapping food, so they’ll use garbage bags in place of cellophane.
It’s amazing the stuff that they are not purchasing that they need to purchase just to run
the Chow Hall and to keep sanitation somewhat in place.
 N5-41: One of the Aramark employees just got fired, and the reason that he got fired was
that they were fudging the water temperatures for the dishwasher, when they run the
dishwasher apparently there’s some kind of stick, I don’t know, that they’re supposed to
put in there to test the temperature…..well, instead of putting the stick in the dish water,
he was taking it over and putting it in a pot of boiling water [to register a temperature for
proper sanitation].


Theme 2: Inmate Response
Officers described the response by inmates to the privatized food operations. Inmates protested
the decline in food service, with both conspicuous demonstrations and quiet acts of subterfuge.
Another response was to fill the vacuum created by the loss of administrative authority in the
kitchen, and opportunistically control operations. Gangs infiltrated the system, and inmates took
advantage of the inexperienced contract workers to steal food and other kitchen items, engage in
sex and accelerate contraband trafficking.
2.1 Inmate Protests
Of great concern to COs are collective protests by inmates. Bellicose individuals can be handled
through persuasion or discipline. Combinations of angry inmates, in contrast, are the foundation
for widespread revolt. Officers report a variety of inmate protests, such as refusals to eat, strikes,
and sabotage.
 D1-72: You remember on chicken day, waffle day, the big value meals, if you’re the last
unit every day, and you [an inmate] get short changed and you don’t get that chicken,
and they give you peanut butter and jelly instead, you’re going to get mad because it
happens to you over and over.
RZ1-72: Do the rest of you feel the same way?
Several: Yes.
G1-72: And in reality how could you blame an inmate, how could you even blame them?
I mean really you couldn’t.
RZ1-72: Have there been inmate protest because of this [food privatization]?
Several: Yes
 S2-9: What happens is you get 100 guys that don’t get the waffles and sausage, which is
every other Saturday, they get pissed off and then they’re going to have a sit-down strike.
‘So you know what, I don’t get no waffles and sausage, I ain’t going nowhere, and I got
100 guys standing behind me that’s going to do the same thing.
 D4-18: Yeah and months or so ago we had one of our segregation units where they serve
the trays through the slots, some guys didn’t give the trays back so they ended up actually
using chemical agent [method to quell protests] on some of them in the unit. So you know
that was a repercussion of the food…
 J4-4: In our facility there’s been few times where the food has come and the prisoners
refuse to take it. And we’re still level 1 and you would have to tell them take it or leave it
and they would just take the tray and walk over to the rack and just dump it and leave.
They’re not happy with the food. When you got 30-40 guys in the line and they’re all
bitching, it’s hair-raising.
 A5-33: And I don’t know how many demonstrations the inmates have had throughout the
state since Aramark took over, and they’ve been peaceful. They come in, they sit
down…..they all go up, get a tray, sit down……they just sit and refuse to leave the Chow


Hall until they can meet with someone or talk to someone, and then they get up and leave,
but it’s been situations like that that have occurred so far.

Inmates were aware of Aramark’s complicity in the decline in food service, and protested
in ways that create chaos or added costs for Aramark. One form of protest is the refusal to
perform prison assignments, which interfered with other aspects of prison operations.
 T5-36: At our facility, we have seen the Level 2 side of our facility, which is
approximately 400 prisoners, they’ve come through the dinner lines asking for the sub or
the vegetarian meal, knowing that Aramark only makes so many a day, that they will run
out. We’ve also had some smaller groups do sit-downs in the Chow Hall.
RZ5-36: So the prisoners are aware that Aramark runs out and they actually kind of
create a situation where they run out of certain foods?
T5-36: Basically yes. They’re protesting the fact that Aramark, because our Level 2’s are
the last ones to get fed every day…..
RZ5-36: Right.
T5-36: They’re the ones that are always getting shorted on the meals…
 J4-19: At our facility the potatoes were so bad one time that prisoners when they got
their trays to the table, they ate the rest of their food and dumped the potatoes on the
floor. The whole floor was just covered in potatoes. That makes a risk for everybody that
may slip and fall and stuff and something could happen in there.
 J3-47: I think there’s a little of sabotage with the inmate workers because I don’t believe
that they want Aramark there, you know what I mean, so if they can, because generally
the food was better and they know this about the state, right. So when Aramark was set to
come in, and there was rumors flying around, ‘Awwww, your food’s going to be crap,’
and blah, blah, blah, they actually didn’t want Aramark in here. So I do believe, and I
have witnessed, there is a level of sabotage with the inmate workers that are working in
the kitchen to sabotage Aramark.
 A5-76… the inmate workers know, when they want to screw around with Aramark, they
make it so easy for them because they don’t [count trays accurately], ‘Yeah, I put 50
trays on there,’ but they won’t count them again.
RZ5-76: So the inmates are trying to….they know Aramark gets paid based on the trays…
A5-76: Yeah.
RZ5-76: They’re trying to screw them over….
A5-76: And then when the meal’s over, we got to do the report and the report’s based on
their tray count and our count through the computer, through the scanning station, and
they can never figure out why they’re off 30, 40, 50…….one time they were off 100. How
can you be off 100? Well it’s not hard…..two stacks of 50 trays, they told you they put
them out there and they didn’t.


M5-76: One of the games they [inmates] had … is they come through there and say it’s, I
don’t know, Taco Day and they want extra meat and cheese, they’ll grab their tray, the
inmate will say give him another tray, they’ll drop the tray, the call it “dropping trays,’
they’ll grab the tray, take the meat and put it on there, and then the tray’s sitting there
and they put it behind there, and then at the end of the day you go back there and there’s
50 trays laid underneath on the ground back there. They get counted as their total, but
they don’t get scanned in twice for OMNI.
 G1-25: I work van crews. I get a detail of inmates in the morning, take them out, and
assign an outside facility. We work in a town right by us. We used to get meals. The
trainers that went off ground used to eat good because they were working all day.
They’ve worked you know 6, 7 hours a day. They would get good meals, now they get,
they get crappy meals, one way it’s affected them, they don’t want to go on van crews
anymore because their food is, you think the regular inmate’s food is messed up. Try
getting the guys that go out on van crews. Their meals are really messed up.
RZ1-25: Why would they get messed up more?
G1-26: [Meals are] put in food coffins, and if that crew doesn’t go out that day, it don’t
get changed out. The same tray is waiting for them that was packed 2 days before in the
same tray. They got assigned trays, big food coffins, got their detail right on it. Inmates
load it up, if it doesn’t get taken out you would think that somebody would go in there
and take it out and rotate the meals. They [Aramark] don’t, it stays in there if the detail
doesn’t go out that day.
RZ1-25: So the food they would eat could be 2 days old?
G1-26: Absolutely.
2.2 Competition for Kitchen Jobs
When any essential commodity becomes scarce, access to that commodity becomes more
valuable. This was the case with food. Inmate assignments in the kitchen became prized for
access and control over food stock.
 G1-5: The guys [inmates] in the kitchen eat better than anybody in the camp.
 J4-49: We had an incident, it happened last week and the week before where we had I
think beefy noodle casserole and the prisoners told the stewards we’re going to run out.
So they brought out, I think they served the last 40 guys peanut butter and jelly. Well
when the chow hall cleared out and the general pop left, the kitchen workers eat last.
What’d they bring out? They brought out beefy noodle casserole and put on the line and
sat down and ate it. When the population should’ve got that and they should’ve gotten
peanut butter and jelly. That happened twice, maybe three times, in the last month.
RZ4-49: So is that one of the privileges of working in the kitchen then? That you make
sure you get what’s on the menu? I mean your food is basically the best.
J4-49: I mean we had a problem of running out of food because they were over serving,
or prisoners would look over their shoulder seeing the food steward handing a guy two
cookies when we’re running out of cookies. … I was told that they [inmates] hid the pan


and then when the GP [general population] left they brought the pan stuff out so they’d
get the good stuff. Or they would put more meat into it too. I’ve seen them do that, the
prison workers would save that pan for later will put the double the meat in there but
then the officers are eating and they’ll put that pan out first so we get double the meat
too. But then they’ll just turn around and hide that pan so nobody else will get it.
S4-50: You know that’s just a tool that you could use that was taken away. So yeah the
kitchen a lot of people liked working the kitchen because it’s a food thing.
RZ4-50: Food has value.
S4-50: And they’re going to get extra stuff, I mean it happens.
 D3-30: … and on top of that, one of her [Aramark supervisor] employees is letting these
4 prisoners, eat 3 pieces of chicken on each tray, but yet they’re running out of food. See
where there’s a huge gray area. Her own employees are backstabbing her and she
doesn’t even know it, and she’s blaming it on the officers.
T5-30: Yeah, they will… know, they’ll produce all of their food for the dinner, and
then next thing you know, the Chow Hall should be getting cleared the inmates should be
completing their assignments for the day, but after they _____________ Chow Hall, then
all of a sudden you’ll see one of them pull something out of the oven, and then you’ll have
7, 8 inmates that were standing around for over 20, 30 minutes eating their special
dinner before they even do their assignments. So at our facility, it’s actually delaying me
from doing my other duties and responsibilities that I have to carry out for the rest of the
night, and it’s also causing the Aramark staff to stay later, getting paid by Aramark
because they can’t leave until the prisoners are all gone and the Chow Hall is finished.
Markets for contraband exist within any prison. With food portions reduced and quality down,
the exchange value of food in the prison system escalated. Inmates would give larger portions to
their friends in the serving line as payment, or to avoid personal harm. Contractor staff failed to
police the unequal distribution of food.
 D3-30: I actually had our food service, our leader [Aramark] come through and she was
very upset, which she kind of does this on occasion, so it’s nothing I’m not used to
dealing with, and she basically said to me the one day, I was angry, and to keep the
peace I just kept my mouth shut because I wasn’t going to start a war in the kitchen, she’s
like, ‘My food cost is off the charts. It’s way higher than it’s supposed to be, and it’s
because you officers….’ And she points her finger at me, ‘…ain’t doing your job.’ She
says, ‘You are not watching the portions. You are not watching what’s being stolen out of
the kitchen,’ and I was like…..
Someone: That’s not your job…..
Someone: Portion control is not your job.
 G1-21: The kitchen workers save it [better food] for the laundry workers so they can get
the best clothes. The laundry workers save the best clothes so they can get the best food.


 A5-15: _____ made a good point about the extra chicken. Guys have had 4, or 5, 6
pieces of chicken because it’s money. They’re paying their debts with the food in the
Chow Hall that they owe people.
RZ5-15: Ok.
A5-15: If they don’t……if they’re getting this, the peach cobbler, and the guys in the 6th
units don’t even have none available, well, the guy that he owes money to isn’t going to
take a stale 3-day old brownie as a payment on the debt when he was looking forward to
the peach cobbler and ice cream, and that’s something that is major with the good food
items that they have on the good meals is the paybacks for debts that are owed from one
inmate to another. That Aramark doesn’t understand.
RZ5-15: So, food has currency?
Several: Oh, yeah.
RZ5-15: A barter system?
A5-15: Absolutely.
 S4-48: Yeah we had a meal one time where we’re having tacos and they ran out of tacos
and substituted something at the end of the meal. Well as the last prisoner came through
and the last unit got whatever they served and they’re sitting down in the chow hall, one
of the Aramark employees who was working the serving line had sat aside his tacos, not
two but four, twice the amount you’re supposed to get and goes and sits down at the
tables for the officers eat and proudly ate his 4 tacos in front of the remaining people.
The prisoners in the chow hall didn’t eat tacos because we didn’t have enough, but this
jackass had 4 of them. It’s like dude if you’re going to do that, wait until the chow hall is
empty before you go and eat your 4 tacos in front of them that we don’t have anymore. I
mean come on, common sense.
 B3-21: … they get certain prisoners, who are serving, and they’re telling them, ‘Hey,
give me this.’ ‘Give me this,’ you know, ‘Give me extra this,’ ok, and we’re watching
them, next thing you know, we catch them give out an extra hamburger patty. Well, you
can either fire them on the spot, counsel them, or whatever… thing you know
they’re short of food, they’re getting less rations, they’re not getting as much as they used
to. You got to remember 27 years ago, we had a lot of food, we had salad bars, we had
you know, pop, coffee, you know the state provided a lot for these guys. Pretty soon they
started diminishing a little bit by little bit, and now we’re at where we’re at. Well if they
say, ‘Hey man, no. This is my job.’ ‘Well, I’m getting you on the yard.’ Next thing you
know, this guy’s getting thumped out on the big yard because he wouldn’t give out an
extra hamburger patty, you know.
RZ3-22: Thumped? Beat up?
B3-22: Beat up.
2.3 Theft of Food


For inmates, one advantage to a position in the kitchen was access to the food inventory. Theft of
food accelerated, which was then sold as contraband elsewhere in the system. Officers perceived
the rise in theft as a function of contractor employee inexperience. Theft of food was a factor that
moderated inmate disapproval of privatized food.
 RZ2-30: You’ve seen an increase in food theft?
L2-30: Drastically. Every time we leave burger out, we lose 40 lbs. right off the back at
 D5-22: Basically with two [Aramark] in the front and nobody in the back, you feel more
of a, a need, obviously to be in the back where no Aramark staff are present. I mean
breakfast is pretty simple and it usually happens at breakfast, but still I mean if they’re
left to themselves and nobody’s in the area supervising, then they’re [inmates] more apt
to take things, they do pretty well on the meal surges, but I mean, they don’t create a
meal surge………they do pretty well on the meal, but if you leave them unsupervised for
any length of time, it just gives them opportunity to do other things that would cause
other problems…….taking stuff from the back…..
RZ5-22: So theft? You’re saying more theft?
D5-22: Yes.
B5-23: We’ve had thefts that come straight from the produce truck or delivery truck
straight out the door. They got in there one day, I think 300 lbs. of beef and 20, 2 10 lb.
rolls, walked straight off the back dock, straight through the Chow Hall off the damn
ramp. How did you let 20 lbs. of beef never make it to the commissary? The lady that
was standing there was just standing there like this……and she wasn’t turning her head.
They were looking at her when they walked past her. They made a joke and said that they
were going to make a joke a go left instead of going right. They made the left and she
never looked so they kept going
 D1-22: Like hot carts that go out to feed in 600 and 1200, they’ll have the back side of
the trays packed full with green peppers and onions, and you can’t see them when you
open up the door, and so if the officer at the other end doesn’t watch them pull the trays
out, then you’ll have all that food goes out. They’ll be tubes of hamburger all stacked
behind them you know, and that’s how they get it moved around. Theft and control by
A popular theft item is sugar, juice concentrate, Kool-Aid mix or other organic material for the
manufacture of ethyl alcohol, known colloquially on the inside as “spud juice.”
 T2-30: The juice concentrate’s a big ticket out of there for them to steal. They have these
boxes like this. Each box makes….gosh I don’t know… they take the concentrate, they
steal it, go to the housing units, and they make alcohol out of it. So because of that you’re
running into drunk inmates in the housing unit and the repercussions of that, the fights,
disorderly conduct, and then that takes up our time there. So you’re seeing an increase in
intoxicated inmates and what to do with these guys, so it affects us on the compound in
that way.


 B3-15: They know, as long as they can keep that Aramark person, personnel busy, it
gives them time to get this going, get a box of Kool-Aid, they open up a box of Kool-Aid,
shoop, there goes two big bags, which makes like 40 gallons, you know, of Kool-Aid.
J3-15: It’s manipulation tactics to get what they want. They’re all about getting what
they want because all of that stuff is worth money in prison, all of it.
B3-15: Right.
J3-15: So if they can get, you know, concentrated oranges, orange juice out of the
kitchen, it’s $20 a box or whatever they get for it, I don’t know what it is, but they get
money for it all.
 T5-47: Our “spud juice” at our facility since Aramark has taken over is probably 1 out
of 10 times. Back in the day, if we caught a prisoner that was drunk off of “spud juice” it
was usually because he kept his orange from his chow lines, you know, for a few weeks,
he keeps taking oranges and he makes his own little batch of “spud.” Now we’re getting
_____ on our, in our population yard of inmates with cups of “spud juice”…….all
basically products that were taken from the food service used to make the “spud,” and
we’ll have 6, 10 guys sometimes drinking on the yard.
RZ5-47: And when they get caught with “spud juice,” do they get punished?
T5-47: Back before Aramark took over, the prisoner was usually taken down to
segregation, and they would monitor them for at least the night. They’d receive a major
misconduct ticket and things along those lines. Now it’s almost been so common place
that they just take them to seg [segregation] and then let them out, maybe in a few hours.
RZ5-48: Ok. Are you seeing also more “spud juice,” more theft of food, and……
B5-48: Yes. A lot more.
 S4-11: A good example yesterday, we’re running our lunch lines and during a lunch lines
in the dining room there’s double doors that separates the dining room from the back of
the kitchen and those double doors are shut at all times during chow-lines to keep the
dining room separate from the back of the kitchen where the foods prepped. And they say
they run out of Kool-Aid so they have these packages, I don’t know they’re 5 pound
packages in bulk of Kool-Aid, so the food stored the Aramark guys, say oh we need some
Kool-Aid! And because one they didn’t make enough to start with, there should be 2 big
containers out there, they had one, so I knew they were going to run out. So the guy goes
back in the dry food area and gives three packages of Kool-Aid to a prisoner, which
they’re not supposed to touch this stuff and then it goes out through the cold box that’s
also locked and I have to unlock it and they give it to the food store, here’s your KoolAid. Well 5 minutes later an officer that was working out in the dining room comes back
in the back of the kitchen and pulled the two packages of the Kool-Aid. He’s like what is
going on here? I’m like where’d you get that? One guy came through and he had it under
his tray. So I asked the Aramark guy where’s your Kool-Aid? He’s like uh well we put
one in the compel and he had one. I’m like your Kool-Aid is walking around the kitchen
right now, it’s gone. It’s stuff like that I mean you just set it down and the stuff goes and
they don’t get that. Too much trust for the inmates.


2.4 Gang Control of Kitchens
In some facilities, gangs control access to kitchen jobs, and inmates that want entry have to pay
tribute. Inmates that are not gang members are endangered or their protests are muted. Gangs
coerce workers into smuggling food; these “mules” are typically younger inmates.
 T2-68: So if a group is controlling that [theft of food], are they going to riot over the
quality of food? No, because they’re making money. ‘You suckers can sit there and shut
 D1-20: We have an inmate that hires all of the kitchen workers. Aramark doesn’t hire
the kitchen workers…He hired all Muslims to work food service. Then they were
squeezing everybody, if you weren’t a Muslim, you had to pay to work in food service as
well as eat. And we just finally broke that group up…..
 D3-20: They’re [inmates] picking and choosing who they want to work for the kitchen.
 D3-25: … a lot of times as an officer you can, you know, throw out a joke or a wise crack
at some of these guys and they’ll give you information without even realizing they’re
giving it to you, and I had talked to one of our white employees in the kitchen, not
Aramark of course, one of the prisoners, and I said, ‘So,’ I said, ‘How much are they
charging you to work back here?’ And he says, ‘You don’t even want to know,’ he says,
‘I’m going to have to quit my job.’ And that’s of course exactly what he was talking about
is it’s starting to be primarily the hiring and firing and what not being done by, not the
firing so much, but the hiring being done by the prisoners. They’re starting to set up their
own little clique back there, and it’s going to potentially be very dangerous because
keeping the prison un-unified as the prisoners is what keeps us safe. As soon as you unify
them and get them in a group together, then our job is dangerous.
 P3-8: The [State] food service ran the kitchen. Now the prisoners run the kitchen. If they
want something made, they don’t care what you say, they’re gonna get what they want,
they make their special foods back there, the kitchens are filthy, they run the kitchens,
they tell Aramark what to do. So I don’t know about your guys’ kitchen, but MSTA is
running my kitchen.
RZ3-8: What’s MSTA? Just, I want to make sure.
P3-9: It’s Moore Science Temple Gang Group. I have a gang running my kitchen.
 P3-19: But one thing I would like to bring up is, I don’t know if you guys at your prisons,
but we have a prisoner, or one of the MSTA’s that run the office, now it’s the Aramark
office but they still have paperwork unattended, all day long, in and out the door, door
unsecure, and he does the hiring of the prisoners. I have a prisoner hiring prisoners to
work in the kitchen, so to me, that is a big security issue when I have one prisoner
bringing in more MSTA prisoners, and guess what we’ve probably got, probably got 98%
blacks and 2% whites that work in the kitchen, so if you’re white working in the kitchen
you probably wouldn’t even last very long before you get stuck.
W3-20: When we had state workers, they seemed to try to be racially balanced.
RZ: Stuck?


P3-20: Stabbed
P3-20: So, one of my biggest things on security is, I cannot believe I’m sitting here
watching a prisoner interviewing another prisoner for a job in the kitchen…..with no
Aramark employee. They leave it up to him.
 B2-37: We just rode a bunch of guys out because of the gang involvement is coming in,
and you get a certain amount of a group of people together with nothing to lose. And you
put them in an area with all the weapons, the most dangerous place in the institution is
the kitchen, all them knives, you have access to all those. They can get to them.
Gang influence was attributed to contractor employee inexperience and lack of training.
 J3-26: Yeah, like they were saying, it’s like that everywhere, but as a Corrections Officer
you recognize [gang behavior] so you can keep control of this. As an Aramark employee,
they have no training on it, and they don’t recognize that hey, MSTA is actually running
the kitchen, you know, they have no clue.
 BN2-85: Well they [Aramark employees] knew when they came in, they [gangs] were
going to be working our operation. ‘This is what you do,’ we’ve told it over to them. The
inmates basically run that kitchen now. They run it, and there’s no way of getting around
it. Maybe it’s just at my place, I don’t know, but the majority of these prisoners working
in there are smarter than a majority of Aramark people.
 D3-69: As officers, we watch what the prisoners are doing, we can smell it. When this
prisoner’s over here and he doesn’t belong there, that’s what we watch, that’s what we
do for a living. We know, ok, something’s going on with that guy, he’s not over here
where he usually is. He’s over there, and two guys are looking at each other funny from
across the hall. Those are things we took care of, keeping people safe and other officers
safe, keeping the thieving from going on…….there’s none of that going on now.
 B3-55: They’re all……you know, MSTA is Moore Science Temple of America…..
P3-55: That’s what I’m trying to do is trying to bust up the gang in there because every
time I get rid of somebody, Aramark wants that person back. ‘He was the number
1,’….you know, I’m like, ‘No. He’s not coming back.’
 T5-50: Where I’ve got into gangs with the food services, about the first 8 months after
Aramark took over, I was trying to help oversee the rosters, on which inmates actually
got jobs working in food service, and like where they were assigned in the food service
building. I kind of got told to stay out of the Aramark’s business because it is Aramark’s
responsibility to run the rosters and who works where.
Someone: Right.
T5-50: While I was in charge, or I was helping, assisting with it, I was making sure that
we weren’t getting too many of the Bloods or the Crips or you know, Spanish Cobras, we
were trying to, I was trying to keep it to where it was kind of a balance…..we could keep
them separated, you know, instead of now with Aramark running it, all 7 of my cooks and
my skilled positions are all one kind of gang, all of my dish machine area is another


gang, you know, so they’re running their own little section of the Chow Hall now, which
we never used to allow that to happen….
RZ5-50: I see.
T5-50: And it is very noticeable now in the facility.
M5-50: Yeah, the same thing at our place, that was happening, and then they kind of took
it out of Aramark’s hands as far as who they were hiring, but now what happens is the
Aramark, they’re promoting people and moving people out and all the rest of the gangs,
you know, you can walk in there and take a, ‘Ok, they must run this,’ and, ‘The young
kids here,’ and, ‘There in this,’ it’s crazy, and then there’s a big long waiting list because
it’s the job to have, is the Chow Hall right now, because they all want to be in there
because there’s extra food in there, you can maybe get drunk, they’re going to maybe
have some sex, there’s a lot, you know, than before.
2.5 Inmate Manipulation of Contractor Employees
Officers stressed the importance of maintaining a professional demeanor, which entails an
awareness that inmates will try to manipulate corrections staff into changing inmate work
assignments, distributing favors and committing violations. Various tactics are used to control
food operations and gain favors from prison employees. One is to exploit personal divisions
among corrections employees and contractor staff.
 G1-37: This one little smooth operator dude just walked in and fed her [Aramark worker]
any line he was giving her….
A1-37: It wasn’t even serious, I mean.
G1-37: And then all the other inmates thought he was Bosso because he was getting all of
the food. He was probably bringing food to them every day, and he had a girl.
 L2-18: The problem that we have is these people don’t have the mentality to deal with the
inmates. They’re treating them like they’re normal every day citizens out in the world like
everybody here.
Someone: They’re coworkers….
L2-18: You can’t do that inside a prison, ok. They [inmates] will lie to you, they will
manipulate you, and they’ll do anything they can do to take advantage. These people are
going in there and talking about how they went to the bar last night with their
girlfriend….how they had a fight with their boyfriend, or how they’re getting a divorce,
or……they’re talking about all this stuff. The department teaches you, when you go
through the department training, you don’t talk about that.
 A1-34: It comes down to manipulation. The Aramark has 15, 20, 40, they’re saying,
inmates around them. So these inmates are basically manipulating, ‘Oh, that guy don’t
know shit. He’s only worked here…..he don’t know nothing.’ So they’ve got all these
inmates telling them, and yet one guy that really knows what he’s doing, but they don’t
want to listen to that because they’re listening to these inmates in their ears for you
know, because that’s all they listen to because they, they have nothing more to do than try


to manipulate them, and they know that he can’t be manipulated, so they manipulate the
Aramark because they’re too easy.
 P3-31: And another thing that Aramark always do, is they fight so bad amongst
themselves, and they fight in front of the prisoners and they have no idea that all of them
prisoners are listening to every single word…..
D3-31: Feed off of it….
W3-31: They say….
P3-31: And they pin each other against each other, and as days go on…..I went in there
one day, and one, she [Aramark employee] starts screaming because she wants this one
Aramark employee fired. She actually came up to me and wanted me to find anything I
could on him to fire him. That’s not my job. These guys are creating their own safety
issues because every single one of the prisoners know who does not like who and they
W3-31: And plus, they put their business out there….
P3-31: Everything.
P3-31: They… know, ‘You’re an Aramark employee and you’re an Aramark
employee, and you two don’t like each other? And hey I think we’d get more out of
D3-31: They drive a wedge….it’s impressive.
 T2-54: They’re [Aramark employees] involving the inmates in their conversation. An
inmate, ____, said to me and I forget who else was standing there. He says, ‘You aren’t
so bad,’ and he’s talking good about the whole kitchen or whatever. ‘I got to choose who
to go with. The dangerous one, ____, or the power, ____, and I guess I’m going to have
to go with the power.’ They have two different factions because these people hate each
other, and so the inmates are just outwardly saying whose team they’re on. It’s like
Twilight. Am I Team Edward or Team Jacob?
B2-54: it’s literally entertainment. It’s entertainment…
RZ2-54: Teams between the Aramark employees?
Someone: Yeah.
B2-55: When you’ve gotten into food service you got groups coming in, if you can get
them hired in certain places, kettle roll, dish tank, commissary, well they start running
that side of food service, and that’s it. When you can get people fighting with each other,
the divide and conquer, that’s the best thing they can do there.
RZ2-55: And the inmates think that?
Someone: Yeah.


B2-55: Yeah, that’s because they’ve been doing it for years. With knowledge of learning
about these kind of things, and, ‘Why is he so nice to me,’ you learn over a period of
time, it takes years, that nobody’s going to help you out without getting something back
in federal prison. No one’s going to be helpful. And if someone’s going home, they may
do a good job because they want to get away, but a lifer….he’s going to help you out
because he wants something in return. You’re never going to be his best friend just
because he needs someone to talk to. He wants something from you.
RZ2-55: Right.
B2-55: And these people [Aramark] don’t understand that because when you try, ‘Hey,
go away. You don’t need to be sitting around the Aramark employees so much.’ Well
you’re the bad person now.
The custody and security mission is harmed when there is disunity between prison staff. A serious
manifestation of divide and conquer happens when inmates persuade contractor employees to
take sides against officers. Over-familiarity between contractor employees and inmates is often a
 BN2-34: You know working side by side with those kitchen stewards, when you were
concerned about some stuff or you thought something was going on, you could go to them
and say, ‘Hey, keep an eye out,’ so and so you know, whatever. Now any concerns, I
cannot go to any of them Aramark people with any concerns because it’s just like going
to a prisoner.
 N5-26: I think that happens a lot in our facilities because the Aramark, they’re not
thinking of themselves as supervisors, they’re thinking of themselves as coworkers with
these inmates. A lot of them, you know they, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ ‘Hey, Jimmy.’
‘Hey…,’ whatever, and they’re kicking it with them mostly, whereas the previous food
service through the state or state officers, we understand that there’s a barrier. You can
say hi to the inmates. You can be polite, kind to them in certain ways, but you
can’t….they’re not your friend, alright. These guys are never going to be your friend.
They’re going to act like they’re your friend, they’re going to try and be your friend,
they’re going to try to get information from you, but it’s all a part of that set-up. They
don’t care about us. They don’t care about those Aramark people. They’re just using
them as much as they can because what else do they have to do.
RZ5-27: So do you see this affecting other areas of the prison beyond just the kitchen and
the cafeteria area?
N5-27: Yeah because I see them, you know, when Aramark people are leaving for the
day, most of the time as they’re walking from the Chow Hall up to the front to leave,
there’s an inmate walking with them. You’re not going to see that, no inmate is going to
walk with me, like I might walk with _____ there [an officer], like we can be friends, but
I’m not going to walk with some inmate. I might talk to him a little bit, but I’m like,
‘Alright, you got to go now,’ you know. ‘We’re not kicking it,’ you know, and these
Aramark people, they walk, they joke, you see them, like they look like they’re just having
a stroll on the park, and you see that a lot.
RZ5-27: Do you feel like the Aramark workers are more on your side or on the inmates’


N5-27: The inmates. Definitely the inmates’ side.
 D3-30: The food stewards before understood, when we said we need this to happen
because of this, they understood and they worked with us. Aramark employees
completely, I told one of the ladies a while back, I said I was going to fire a guy because
of some of the things I had seen him do. Well she ran right into the back and told this guy
what was going on and next thing I know the guy was up front talking to me, he’s like,
‘What’s wrong? You’re going to fire me because of….’ this and that and this and that.
I’m like, ‘Hell yeah that’s what I’m going to do.’ But she skirted right to the back to tell
this guy because she didn’t want him fired, and this guy was clearly in the wrong, and I
just sit back and I deal with some of this stuff and I’m like, Oh my gosh….I can’t believe
that just happened.
W3-30: That would have never happened with a state employee.
D3-30: No. Absolutely not.
 BN2-89: It is definitely more of a combined Aramark-prisoner team concept thing now.
Someone: Yeah.
BN2-89: I’ve heard more than once, ‘You just want to see us fail.’ That’s a prisoner
telling me this. ‘You just want to see us fail.’ Well, he’s referring to him and Aramark.
 T2-17: I can guarantee you after 2 days of them starting working there, they [Aramark
employees] went home and said to somebody, ‘You know, those inmates aren’t so bad.
Those officers are jerks though.’ I can guarantee you they’re already starting to identify
with inmates that quickly. Just the other day we lost one. She liking an inmate. I couldn’t
figure out why she got mad at me so quick, it’s because I specifically warned them about
this inmate how manipulative he was and how devious, and sure enough, that’s the one
she fell in love with. So they found love letters, and they called for her in the inspector’s
office. Well she tricked them. She didn’t go to the inspector’s office, she left the
compound. She didn’t want to get walked out. So they were wondering where she was at,
she’s gone, she’s down the road. She text her friend who works there, ‘Hey, tell inmate
____ that I love him and give him my phone number.’ So you wouldn’t text that person
unless they’re already in on the gig with you.
2.6 Anatomy of a Set-Up
Collaboration between prison employees and inmates involves a psychological process, referred
to in the industry as “anatomy of a set-up.” Often COs would try to educate contractor employees
about this threat.
 RZ5-24: … what is an anatomy of a set up?
D5-24: It’s just the process in which a prisoner will manipulate the staff member to do
what they want them to do.
RZ5-24: Ok, and it usually happens slowly through small favors and then grows into a
dependency, is that……


M5-24: Yes, and the situation yesterday, it’s just like, ‘Oh, I’ll protect you. I’ll look after
you.’ ‘Oh ok, thanks, you know it’s a little inappropriate, but it’s not the worst thing in
the world.’ Then the next day, he might, ‘Oh, you know, I remember one of the worst
things about being in prison, I just want some cologne or some, I want to…….,’ you know
those little bottles, and then they bring in that, and then maybe in the next couple days,
‘You know, we can’t get tobacco. Can you get….,’ ‘No I’m not bringing in tobacco. I
can’t do that.’ ‘Well you already brought me cologne, you know on that camera, and I
know what time it was, you know,’ and then, ‘Well, I guess I better bring some tobacco in
then so that you don’t tell on me,’ you know. And then it’s just all downhill from there.
That’s how they do it. And they don’t have the training like we have to recognize that,
you know.
RZ5-24: So inmates will tell a worker that they will protect that person from other
M5-24: Yeah. So look after you. ‘We’ll tell you what’s going to go on. Stay with us,’ and
blah, blah, blah, and then you know, it’s the anatomy of a set up. That’s where it starts,
and then it….oh, maybe they’re going to do something a little more, and then before you
know it, you’re bringing in drugs or you’re, you know, it’s really easy to set someone up
that way.
 T2-57: We’re susceptible. I got 19 years in working in some pretty rough units….some of
the roughest the department has…..and they’re all susceptible. The minute you think
you’re not susceptible, there it is. You are. You’re going to have your favorite little
inmate working for you, you porter, and you’ve got nothing to do but an eye on this guy,
next thing you know he’s doing stuff behind your back. You have to be aware of that stuff.
Gaining the trust of a prison employee begins with gestures that endear the worker to the inmate,
including behavior characterized as over-familiarization. Once trust is established, an inmate
coaxes or extorts favors from the corrections employee.
 BN2-26: I mean these girls are getting the attention they never got in the world, and
they’re getting a lot of it. And they are seeing the best of the prisoner. Prisoners are all
smiley, they’re making sure they shine their shoes….
 S4-11: To me they trust the inmates like they’re working over at a family fair. This isn’t a
family fair this is a prison. These guys, you can’t trust them. And they do!
 D3-55: I have seen some things borderline over-familiar that just turns your stomach to
where, you know, one of the female staff members would be sitting with her legs out, I’ve
seen this on a couple of occasions in the doorway of their office and the prisoner’s
standing with a leg on either side of her leg, and I would be like, ‘Holy crap,’ and they’re
just chattering. She’s sitting in a chair just looking up at him, just chattering back and
forth and it’s just…….
J3-55: Oblivious to what the inmates are doing.
D3-55: Probably not. Doesn’t have a clue, and in the first place, you’re way too fricking
close. Back up, you know, but they’re not trained. They don’t know. They don’t get it.


They’re being set up every day constantly all day long, they’re getting overfamiliar,
they’re touching……
 J3-65: I’ve seen Aramark employees like, a kitchen worker, an inmate kitchen worker,
it’s his day off right, so he’s not in the kitchen. He’s out in general population……start
running chow lines, and the guy will come in the kitchen, grabs his tray, sat down in the
dining area with all of his, you know, the guys in his unit, and an Aramark employee
noticed him sitting out in the dining room, ‘Oh, hey.’ Walked all the way across the
dining room to fist pump the guy. ‘What’s up.’
W3-65: I was just about to say if we did that, that would be over-familiarization.
Several: Oh man.
J3-65: We’d get fired for that.
 G4-29; She was in the cooler and two inmates were goofing around and they were
holding the door on her so she couldn’t get out. So then when she came out though
instead of being pissed or whatever, she came out laughing and joking with them like it
was all funny you know. And I don’t know if it was an officer, or who it was that saw it,
but they said there’s two inmates sitting in segregation right now and I don’t know how it
all went down but she no longer works for Aramark. I don’t know if they told her that she
was pretty much might as well resign and leave or if she was actually fired by Aramark.
RZ4-29: And that’s the issue of familiarity between the Aramark…
G4-30: Over-familiarity.
 T2-95: Once they catch you on camera, or say you’re getting paid by a family member,
and they get……I’ve seen an officer got pictures taken of her, out at the barn meeting up
with inmate family members doing payoffs…..or if they do something with you in the back
room, like we had a lady stand there, and the inmate slid his hand right across her butt
like a husband would do his wife or something, just real casual, you know. And she didn’t
even flinch, and they just happened to catch it on tape. She didn’t report it so she was
gone, but say they do something on that camera, they get you compromising yourself,
now I can come up to you and say, ‘Hey, I need you to get me some of that juice.’ ‘Well
are you going to give me the 50 bucks?’ ‘No, you’re going to do it for free now because
here’s the thing I got the date and the time, and all I got to do is hit the, hold it and check
the camera…… and I only know.’
A valued favor a prison employee can perform for an inmate is to smuggle contraband in from
outside the prison. Cigarettes, phones and drugs are commonly sought items.
 BR2-56: We had a gal that was just put on stop order a month ago. She brought in her
love letters for a certain individual. She also brought in tobacco because they tore his
cell up, and found the letters that he had wrote to her, that he had made $200 on the last
tobacco she brought in.
S2-57: Keep in mind that a pack of cigarettes on the street is about $6, in the
__________ it’s about what, $75 for a pack nowadays?


 W3-55: When they [Aramark] first took over, we had what tobacco showing up left and
Several: Oh, yeah.
P3-55: The whole place was smugged right up, I was like, ‘Damn, where are all those
cigarettes coming from?’ Then the Aramark employees starting turning over, boom,
boom, boom, boom, boom…..
W3-55: You guys had dope showing up for quite a while too.
 H5-32: Well, as a food service officer, you way more in tune to the red shirts now than
you were the state employees. State employees were better trained. They went through the
training that we go through. They went through our PA 415 training. These red shirts are
coming in off the streets, like _____ said, the inmates are befriending them, and they’re
buying into the program. ‘You’re one officer, you can’t help me. There’s 6, 8 inmates
here. They can help me.’ We just had one who got fired because she brought in a cell
phone, some dope, for the prisoner…
 D1-20: It’s you always wanting to know where certain people are, you know. I got one,
nickname ____ that we keep track of. We busted all the inmates that were with her with
dope. They’ve all tested positive, but we haven’t busted her yet.
Smuggling contraband might be committed for a paramour, yet it more likely is a business
arrangement between an inmate and a prison employee. Officers testified about the economic
motives and their relation to contractor employee pay. Channeling in contraband became an
offsetting factor to inmate opposition to food privatization.
 B2-36: When you put a life who has nothing to lose, and you put a prisoner with a person
who well, can make more money on the side than they make there, they have nothing to
lose also.
 S2-92: ..Michigan’s economy is tough, it’s hard to actually find a job. You know you
get……Ford Motor Company is doing their cutbacks, so you got guys that were making
$25-$30/hour, now they’re on the market, you know. They need a job, ok. You get a 40year old man that’s looking for a job, ok you know what Aramark’s hiring, ‘We’re going
to pay you 12-14 bucks an hour.’ If he happens to be a risk-taker or a thrill-seeker into
other things that indulge his life to keep him going, he’s making $10 or $12/hour but he’s
not able to pay his bills with that there, but you know what, this guy here goes ahead and
uses his skills for what they say is an anatomy of a set-up. You just start making friends
with those………me being a person of Aramark…start making friends, ‘Well, you know
I’ll make sure this guy doesn’t do anything,’ you know, ‘I’ll look out for you.’ Next thing
you know, a couple weeks later, he’s like, ‘Aye dude. Can you bring me a pack of
cigarettes, you know I’ll probably get you 50 bucks.’ So you know what, bring in that
pack of cigarettes he’s like, ‘That ain’t nothing. You know what, 50 bucks man…..I need
food, I got car payments, I got a house payment, you know……you know what no
problem.’ Next thing you know, here’s the pack of cigarettes I get 50, and then it just
steps up from there, ‘Can you get me some weed,’ and you know, everything comes for a
value and it’s at so much higher inside so next thing you know, this guy might be bringing
in a $30 bag of weed that he could probably get $400 for inside.


 S2-93: … that the Michigan economy, they offered a job to me, you know what if I was
out of work, you know what……and I couldn’t find a job whether I want to work at
McDonald’s for $8/hour or I’m going to work at Aramark for $12/hour, I got to make
money so I’m going for the highest dollar ok, that’s what I got to do for me, but that guy
that, that $12/hour is not meeting his bills, and an opportunity presents itself to where he
could make an extra $300 a week cash. That’s helping him but see in their mindset they
don’t realize that. My mindset, I’ve got a lot to lose being an officer making
$80,000/year, and then end up with a felony on my record. I’d never be able to find a
decent job with that. Aramark, you know, I understand they got to hire people, but the
point is they’re making $12/hour that brings huge potential for these inmates to
manipulate Aramark people to bring contraband in, and everybody on that inside circle
is making money until somebody gets caught.
 BN2-44: And when you have a group that manages to get a couple of these to bring stuff
in, like the watch last week, when you get them to bring stuff in, if they run any part of
these games and if they’re one of the officers of their day, they will make sure that the
people, the general population, doesn’t raise a big stinker because right now they’re
getting what they want. They’ve got someone that’s willing to supply some stuff, you
know……don’t blow it, don’t ruin it just chill out and…….


Theme 3: Divisions and Contested Turf
Conflict between officers and Aramark personnel was a major theme. This section outlines the
major points of friction between the COs and contractor employees, which were perceived by
COs as a factor that harms security.
3.1 Neglecting the Mission of Custody and Security
Officers commented on how contractor employees would focus on the narrow task of food
service without consideration for the larger mission of custody and security.
 J1-11 Cleanliness aside, another one of my complaints with Aramark is they’re not
custody oriented. They have no, if you go in the back of our Chow Hall at -----, there’s a
back door that leads down to the segregation hallway where we go drop off seg
[segregation] trays. Every, it seems like almost, well there getting better, but at least
once or twice a week when I do my round, I will catch that back door unlocked. And their
response is, ‘Well, I’m standing right here, you know 15 feet away, dropping off seg
trays.’ I’m like ‘If you’re outside of hands reach of that door, it needs to be locked.’ You
know, they leave cart racks that got removable shelving on it that can be basically bent
and sharpened. You leave a lot of contraband, well I don’t, I consider contraband as, it’s
food service related items, but if it’s out of the Chow Hall it’s obviously contraband,
whereas when it was state workers, it was always locked up when not in use. These doors
were always secured, and things like that.
GG1-12: Just about a month ago, we caught one of the Aramark workers, she left the
truck running. She was, she you know, the truck that they brung all of the food in?
RZ1-12: Yeah.
GG1-12: She left it running through the whole chow, through everything, and she said
that the reasoning was that it broke down on her about a month or two ago before that,
and she just wanted, if you could run it so it wouldn’t stop running. Didn’t have it locked.
A running truck in a facility. On the back dock. That is the, that is never ever supposed to
happen. Never. For no reason. Nobody was back there.
 T2-20: We actually had an Aramark worker, and this was just beyond the pale, the guy
was lazy and he didn’t want to carry some boxes talking about the ___________ incident.
Correct me if I’m wrong here, but this guy actually took an inmate with him to do the
“quote on quote” heavy lifting I guess, which wasn’t much it was just a little bit, took him
up through, and our day officer’s very busy. Now I guess they had some fault there, but
they’re very busy and they’re overworked in doing 3 things at one time, and he come up
there during a busy period around shift change, took this inmate through Gate 3. This is
a Level 4 inmate, through Gate 2. Now you’re in the most dangerous area of our facility.
The only thing separating them from the world is Gate 1. He had the inmate, you could
see him on camera looking around knowing he’s not supposed to be…….
S2-20: And Gate 1 was open.
T2-21: Yep. Twice Gate 1 opened while that inmate was sitting [there]. A lieutenant
come in and said, kind of questioned why he’s there, and eventually they shot him out of
there, but this Aramark worker is so un-security conscious, he escorted this inmate within


6 feet of this outside world with the gate opening twice. If this guy would have had a plan
or anything he was gone. Just gone. It’s unbelievable the things that they do…….
 W3-7: I mean just like I was saying about the security thing, I mean, because I stand
chow lines a lot and we end up having to make rounds in the back. I don’t know how
many times I’ve walked back there and every cooler in that place is unlocked. When we
had state workers, there were no such thing as a cooler unlocked unless there was a
worker standing at that door watching what you’re pulling out of it.
RZ3-7: and why does an unlocked--explain why unlocked cooler creates risks.
W3-7: Creates risks for getting inmates back there. Like you said, [inmates] having sex in
the cooler, stealing food, take your pick. Hiding shanks or weapons, I mean, anything.
 D4-9: I have had them where they [Aramark] left the keys in the door and walked away.
RZ4-9: Keys in which door?
D4-9: In doors that are supposed to be locked, to the back dock, to the common area
where the dragons are. All the doors are usually locked so if they got to get something
they got to key it. You know you have to.. Wherever you go in prison you pretty much
have to go through a door. You’re either getting buzzed in or you’re keying it yourself. So
they leave it in, turn around and take their stuff over here, and walk away. You know, the
keys are laying in the door. I go grab them and I can have them on me for 10 minutes and
they won’t know they’re gone. Finally they go back in and looking and I go what’re you
looking for and they go my keys and I say where’d you put them and I say I don’t know.
S4-10: Yeah, security issue with Aramark is probably the biggest problem for me.
Working in the prison setting I’m constantly going behind them cleaning up their messes
that they’re leaving for me and I got enough stuff to do on my own. As far as messes I
mean leaving doors open that are not supposed to be open, going against our policy of
our facility where there’s certain areas where it’s constant supervision when an inmates
in there.
3.2 Disputes over Access and Control of Kitchen Area
Officers described tension with contractor employees over control of the kitchen and storage
areas. COs wanted access to enforce custody and security, but were contested by the contractor,
perhaps because Aramark employees suspected that COs were complicit in theft.
 G1-33: There’s no doubt when you find a shank or something or a food item, you know it
came from the kitchen. So, you go down there and you search it yourself. We don’t have
that freedom anymore, you can’t just walk over to the kitchen, ‘What are you doing over
GG1-34: I can speak for myself, but I think everybody feels this way. You know at first,
like you said, some of the state food service supervisors were our friends. We knew them,
we worked around them for years. We hated the fact that they lost their jobs.
RZ1-34: Right.


GG1-34: But on the other hand, we wanted this…..Aramark to work because you know at
the end of the day, we want to get out of there safe. … you know I’ve tried to befriend
them and try to talk to them, like you know, ‘Hey, they’re acting as your friend, so they
can get over on you.’ You know, they just won’t listen, and you know, you try to tell them
something like you said, they get an attitude. She says, ‘Oh, this is my kitchen. This is
how I’m going to run it.’ No. When it comes down to it, that’s our kitchen. And we’re
going to run it how we run it.
 T2-10: One of the things that I’ve seen when they came in was there’s almost a more
adversarial attitude from them to us than us to them, and they get, they want to protect
their stuff from us. And I’ve seen them find locks that weren’t even authorized to be in
there, and put them on cabinets, put them on doors, and then we had discovered those
weren’t the correct locks tried to get into them, you can’t. And we had to report them to
the inspector you need to get these locks out of here. Do you understand if an inmate gets
a hold of this lock, puts it on a commissary door, whoevers in there is screwed until we
can go get lock cutters to get you out, and they’re like, ‘Oh.’ There’s this general lack of
knowledge about security, and yeah, it’s difficult.
 T2-36: I had an issue recently where they didn’t provide us the meal we were supposed to
have on the midnight shift, so they had to make a substitute, or we had to go pull stuff and
kind of make up a meal. So we did the taco meal, and I had pulled the can of beans and I
opened it up. They told me, ‘Wash them out, cut the lids off, leave it in the office,’ they
would take care of it. So I did that. Put it in the office, well in the morning……
B2-36: I didn’t know all of this either.
T2-36: Yeah an inmate went into the office when it wasn’t being supervised, grabbed one
of those can lids, which is about this big around and very sharp, stashed it in a mop
bucket. ____ came in, found it in the mop bucket, turned it in, and the whole focus was
why did ____ pull a can of beans that wasn’t on the menu that night? That was the whole
focus. Not that an inmate went into their office, grabbed the lid, and stole it to use as a
weapon. See that’s how they’re seeing this. It’s incredible.
 M5-54: I actually had an inmate complain to an Aramark person that, ‘There’s no
inventory,’ ‘Ok, you give this inmate this tool, you inventory it out to him, and you write
where it came from.’ This one Aramark worker goes logging every tool out to one inmate,
so it’s just easier to write the same name down just, you know, being lazy. That inmate,
‘I’m not responsible for all of these tools. Are you crazy?’ ‘No, no, you’re going to be
fine. Don’t worry about that.’ ‘No, no. I don’t want my name…...’ ‘No, you’re going to be
fine,’ and then the Aramark worker complained to me, you know like, ‘Why is he…..who
cares?’ I’m thinking, I don’t want to take the inmate’s side in this you know, but I don’t
really blame the guy, like, no you don’t want to lose any of those tools in your name, you
know, so it’s tough. It’s challenging because you don’t want to, you don’t know what to
say in those situations, I’ve never been into situations like that…..
 B3-70: She [Aramark worker] wants to start this. I says, ‘I’ll go tear that thing down and
I’ll, you know…..,’ I says, ‘There’s no way any of you guys are going to keep me from
any room in here.’ I said, ‘Part of my job is I can go into any of them rooms anytime I
want, shake down, and leave it a mess and you guys can clean it up.’ I said, ‘I’ll shake
down her office if she doesn’t like it. So she needs to know this.’ Well she talked to me a
couple days after that about it, and I wouldn’t even let her talk.


 BN2-25 I’ve had, literally I’ve had prisoners come to me because they have an Aramark
office. Now that used to be a joint office, custody office with food service people, now it’s
just an Aramark office because it’s really not an office, it’s a lounge. It’s a prisoner Aramark lounge. So we can’t keep our log books in there anymore because they have no
control in there.
3.3 Disputes over Inmate Worker Assignments
Participants could identify power relations among the inmates, including the infiltration of gangs,
and would try to remove inmates from the kitchen for disciplinary reasons. Aramark supervisors
objected, often because of over-familiarity. The COs observed lax rule enforcement concerning
the inmates and sought greater control over inmate assignments.
 GG1-9: The inmates have gotten over on Aramark. They tell them where they’re going to
work. They tell them what, you know, what they’re going to do, and how. I mean, I come
in and I see 5 people sitting, 5 inmates sitting down, and only 2 people working, 2
inmates working. It’s like what’s wrong with this picture? Get them up and get them
doing something. Clean, get a mop, get a broom, do something, clean. They can do
something, you know instead of sitting around, and they just look at me like ‘Well, you
know, they got, they’re going to do something here in a few minutes.’
 B2-15: The old employees enforced those [prison] rules. Those were the rules inside the
kitchen. Now Aramark’s here, they don’t want to enforce those rules. ‘That’s a custody
issue. That’s a custody’s problem. We’re here to make a meal, and these are our
coworkers,’ what they refer to inmates. They’re not wanting to be in charge of the
inmates. They’re their coworkers to help them, you know, produce something. They don’t
want to shake them down. They don’t want to, they don’t care what they’re doing, or
what’s involved, they just want to be their friend. This is their buddy. They’re…..I hear
all the time, ‘Well they’re human.’ Yes, they are, but you’re in charge with safety, so
we’re not getting stabbed in the back by somebody, or being sexually assaulted. Well
that’s a continuous argument with them back in the kitchen area that, you know, ‘They’re
not going to do nothing to me because I’m just here to help them.’
 D3-10: … you were saying that MSTA’s running your chow hall, we’ve got the same
thing going on, we’ve got, I’ve got four guys back there that I’m positive are running
everybody else, they’re stealing, you know, they’re manipulating, they’re very, very good
manipulators. And these four guys need to not work in the chow hall anymore, period.
And I had the opportunity to write tickets and fire all four of them for over-portions on
our chicken day, when they get the actual chicken with the chicken leg and thigh. And
each one of these guys had four pieces of chicken, I mean just heaping plates sitting in
the corner after everything’s all said and done, and they’re just eating whatever they feel
like eating, and I brought it up to one of the Aramark employees—I thought, problem
solved, the guys that are running the kitchen, I’m going to fire all four of them today, let
them be mad at me. And I went to go talk to the one Aramark employee, and she’s like,
“no, they work real hard back here and it’s not my turn to count chicken today.” That
was her exact… she said, “it’s not my turn to count chicken today, so I don’t care what
they have on their tray.” So at that point in time, it’s wrong for us to go over there and
write a ticket on these guys, when they were given permission to have a ball, eat what you
want! For me to write that ticket, that kind of… it de-credits me. Because it’s kind of an


unwritten rule, if they have permission from somebody we pretty much don’t write them
tickets because it’s wrong.
J3-10: You’re undermining your fellow employee, that’s what you’re doing, and you
can’t do that in a correctional facility, you can’t, you can’t undermine your partner, or
any employee, because that takes their power from them. You know what I mean? And
that’s the situation that you’re constantly being put in.
 P3-35: And there’s something about begging to keep the prisoners in there when you’re
trying to discipline them. They’re like, ‘Oh, no. That’s my best lead cook.’
D3-35: Yeah.
P3-35: ‘Don’t let him go.’ He’s also the biggest thief in the kitchen, hello. He’s stealing
 N5-35: …since Aramark’s gotten there, I’ll shake them down, you know, they’ve got pizza
in their pocket, they’ve got 5 oranges, and I’ll be like, ‘What are you doing with this? You
know you can’t have this.’ They’ll say, ‘Oh, Ms. O gave it to me.’ ‘Ms.,’ whoever, ‘gave it
to me. She said I could take it since I didn’t get my lunch.’ I’m like really? And I’ll ask
them, ‘Hey, did you give him this?’ ‘Yeah, yeah. He’s fine, he’s fine.’ We stopped asking
because I stop a guy, he’s got whatever he’s got in his pockets, every time you ask the
Aramark people, ‘Yeah, he can have that.’ ‘Yeah, he can have it.’ We can’t write a ticket
on that if they’re telling them they can have it, it’s their food.
RZ5-35: Right, right. So it’s hard for you to impose those rules when you have the
Aramark, or her, saying something completely opposite.
N5-35: Yes.
RZ5-35: And Aramark workers allowing them to take it, but it makes it difficult for you
guys then to just go back to the usual protocol and rules of the system….
Someone: Undermining your authority.
 J3-9: They’re [inmates] getting permission from Aramark constantly because they’re
playing them [Aramark employees]. They’re constantly playing them, and they’re getting
whatever they want. And you can’t technically discipline an inmate—you can’t write
them a DDO, you can’t write them a theft ticket if he has permission to have that from
 G4-41: One other issue that I can see that’s really bad between the state food stewards
and Aramark is discipline in the inmates. The Aramark people absolutely have no idea
about writing tickets or how you’re supposed to and they come to us all the time and you
don’t always have the time to help them write a ticket or try to explaining to them the
options that they got and they get no training at all and basic disciplinary stuff for
discipline because what you’re supposed to discipline as you’re doing stuff in the prison
and they have absolutely no idea.
RZ4-41: And the former state workers do all that?


G4-41: Yeah they got training on that.
Attempts by COs to give advice to contractor workers were often rebuffed.
 GG1-34 Well they were stacking trays. They had 5 trays that were on this ledge not
covered, and inmates just walking by and they can take another piece of cake, they can
take you know, and I try to tell them serve one tray at a time. One tray at a time, well they
won’t listen. They didn’t want to do that. The inmates told them, ‘Oh, it’ll take too long,
and you know we’re not doing to do it.’ Well, finally I talked to someone and put up a
memo, now they’re doing one tray at a time, but it took me like to get stressed out and
frustrated and…to the point where you know, I just wanted to fire all of the workers, and
you know and tell them, but they just won’t listen. So, they’re defiant in that way where
they want to do it their way, and they don’t want to listen to us, and like I said, we’ve
been around it. I’ve been around food service for 20 something years, so I know how it
could run and how it could run better, but they just don’t listen. The one guy who
threatened our staff, the one worker, me and an officer, I said something, and he was like,
‘Well, what do you know? You’re just a CO.’
 P3-76: You know, you’re trying to help them and they think you’re trying to bash them or
do something mean to them, but you’re actually trying to guide them…..
J3-76: You’re trying to explain there’s a process. You can’t just call a guy over here
because, ‘Well, he’s hired. He’s on my schedule.’ I understand that. He might be hired all
day long in here, but he’s not allowed to get here.
P3-76: But it’s not just that, it’s anything you try to do for them, you know, like
you………….I sent one a ticket, and he’s like, ‘You didn’t send me this ticket,’ and then
like, ‘I need him. I need him in here today.’ Guess what, he’s replaceable. I got 1300
other prisoners that can replace him, and we don’t need him. If I wrote the ticket, he’s
___________________, you know, and they don’t get that concept of discipline where
he’s being disciplined.
J3-76: They look at prisoners more like friends….
P3-76: ….but they still want him in the kitchen… that puts the officer and Aramark
like, ‘Listen, when I’m disciplining a prisoner, you step away. I’m disciplining them, he’s
going to his unit and he’s done in the kitchen until I say so, until he gets over this ticket.’
 J1-35: Aramark at ____, in mine, it’s not uncommon for breakfast lines to be running an
Aramark holler at a guy, ‘Hey, you want to work overtime?’ And the inmate will go,
‘Yeah,’ and then they’ll be like, ‘Ok, go ahead and change out after you eat.’ And then
when I see that inmate there, without an overtime pass, I send them back to unit, and
Aramark will be like, ‘Hey, why did you send my worker back?’ I’m like, ‘No, he’s not
your worker he’s mine.’ I use the lawnmower analogy. I own the mower, you just borrow
it for 8 hours. He don’t come to work until I say he’s clear. And they know over and over,
and I reminded them weekly. You want somebody you call control center. Control center
clears them, calls the unit says, ‘Hey. Send Inmate ____ over to Chow Hall.’ He comes
over with a hand pass, we’re all good. You don’t just snatch people out of line.
RZ1-35: And it’s because, what they want to be able to do is bring people in when they
need them, but your concern is custody?


J1-35: Yes.
 T2-52: The truth of the matter is we help these people in so many ways because in
helping them we’re helping ourselves and we care about each other. But we get betrayed,
and they use it as a scapegoat that we’re just trying to sabotage them, and that’s not the
case at all. If we were trying to sabotage them, we could have sent in 500 things through
the violation, you know for cleanliness.
3.4 Disputes over Meal Counts
Aramark was reimbursed on a per meal basis that varied by volume. The MDOC monitored meal
counts through an electronic card swipe system, called OMNI. With CO oversight, inmates
would line up and swipe their meal card to register for breakfast, lunch or dinner before entering
the chow hall. OMNI was problematic.
 MK-33: Before, there was a real high tech system [OMNI], the chow hall seated so
many. You filled up so many times and you had your discounted seats.
S2_33: _________ 50 seats on that side, you filled up 4 times here, that’s 200. You filled
up 4 times here, that’s 200. That’s 400 meals they served.
N2-33: But there was no conflict of interest with one agency trying to pump up numbers
and skim portions all at the same time.
 D5-74: I believe why they switched over to OMNI was accessibility. So they’d have
somebody sit in Lansing, see how many they fed in _____, _____, wherever in the UP. I
believe that’s why the change was made. The problems we normally have with OMNI is
that if we’re bold, it will continue to read a card for 30-60 seconds, and then the lines
would basically stop at that point until the computer’s able to take the next card….
RZ5-74: So it’s slower?
D5-74: It’s slower…..what other problems do we have? It seems to time out, like after an
hour. It will give us an error message, ‘Was not successful. Please try again,’ and
basically you have to log out and sign back in…
 B2-31: Yeah, we usually are short staffed. We’re struggling to find a couple bodies, and
sometimes we run chow lines when we shouldn’t. We run them unsafely, we don’t have
the proper staff, but we got to get it running because you got this program going on, you
got this program going on right after meals. So when we don’t hold up these programs,
we’re just going to start with an unsafe number, well that’s when we need to shut the
computers off and have them 2 more staff available to watch these chow lines because
from what I’m told they’re not even using these numbers from this OMNI, that we have a
supervisor that’s taking a count, you have Aramark taking a count, now they have to get
together after each meal and agree, ‘This is how many…,’ regardless of what that
number says on the computer, so we’re going through the motions for nothing.
The OMNI system was put in place just before privatization. Respondents described how OMNI
yielded meal counts that were lower than Aramark expected, and so Aramark resorted to tray


counts as a method of counting meals. COs remarked that tray counting produced meal estimates
that were higher than OMNI, often resulting in meal counts that exceeded the prison population.
 DN1-45: I say it’s because we do 2 separate counts. We count each inmate that comes
through [via OMNI].
RZ1-45: Right.
DN1-45: And Aramark counts the number of trays that they have.
J1-45: And they have an inmate counting the trays.
DN1-45: And they have an inmate counting the trays.
G1-45: And I can tell you, you would think that at such a small facility it would
be…every day would match….it doesn’t.
J1-46: It doesn’t. I’ve had Aramark come up to me…..
G1-46: Does not.
J1-46: ….when we’re finally closed for lunch with the number [of tray counts] higher
than our actual population.
Several: Me too.
J1-46: At the end of the meal, ___ say, ‘We fed 1175,’ and our capacity is maybe 1310.
They’ll come up to me with their count of 1315, 1320, 1325, whatever it may be. I’m like
how do you count more trays served than our actual population?
 D3-44: Because he’s [Aramark staff] 25, 30 higher and I’m like, ‘How can you be 25 or
30 higher than me scanning?’ And I’m pretty accurate with the scans, if somebody goes
through and it doesn’t scan right, I mean, I keep track in the back of my head, even if a
couple of 3 guys get lost in the mix, I know ok I’m 3 off because it didn’t scan properly
and there were 35, 40 guys in line. You don’t jump over the fence and you already got to
come back, you let him go and keep coming back where you’re at, and it’s just ridiculous
to hear them say stuff like that, you know, ‘Oh, we might just have to have you do this job
more often,’ because he’s always off. A lot.
J3-44. Our OMNI system isn’t perfect, but it’s not….
D3-44: It’s close. I mean it’s pretty good.
J3-45: Yeah, it’s [OMNI] fairly well [accurate]. I mean you’re talking 20 trays maybe,
we use it either way, but not 150, 200. ____ and I personally witnessed like, a blatant
like, cooking the books [by Aramark], like just flat out.
 B5-72: At _____, their tray count is messed up because 3 out of 5 people do it their own
way. They don’t have a set system on what trays to count. Some count the dirty trays,
some don’t count the dirty trays, some count the snack bags that go to the insulindependent diabetics, as a meal. I tell them, ‘You can’t count that as a meal,’ but the


owner, excuse me, our supervisor told us, our director told us, that snack bags are
considered a meal, ok. I’m not counting it. We go by the computer, they go by a tray
count. When the meal is hamburgers, 1280 inmates. So we come up with a number like
1235 plus 24 staff, that’s 16 come and eat plus the 8 for 3rd shift. We come up with like
1260, 1258. They’ll [Aramark] have a number like 1375. I’m like, ‘How can you have 80
people over the count from where we had, we only have 1270 inmates, you got 1355.
 M5-74: I think that the MDOC numbers tend to be a little bit low, and the Aramark
numbers tend to be ridiculously exaggerated is the problem.
The contractor would invent ways to escalate the meal count. For example, improperly prepared
trays for segregation would be returned and charged to the State. Any extra distribution of a food
item was charged as a full meal to the State. Meal counts were inflated by attributing meals to
COs that they never ate.
 B2-77: On Pizza Day, [they might give an inmate] another slice of pizza, they’ll charge
that as another tray to the state. We’ve actually served more [meals to] inmates than we
actually have at the institution.
 B2-76: They get paid 250 for 170 servings…
L2-76: This charged number….let’s say I walk by and I grab an apple……they’ll charge
you for a whole tray.
 B3-41: One more thing with that too is last time we had burgers, so officers’ chow starts
at 9 in the morning, so like I said, prisoners are saying, ‘You want one or two patties,’
you know, a lot of officers will take two, so they figure, they made, by the time 10:00 or
whatever, 10:30 came around, they went through 60 something patties, and I had 13 staff
that came over and ate, and they were livid and they were blaming it on staff. And I’m
like, ‘Hey, listen. I’m going to tell you right now I’ve had not even 15 officers come over
here and eat.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to say none of them took two patties, but they
didn’t take three.’ I said, ‘15 officers with two patties, that’s only 30. You people are
letting your prisoners, they’re stealing from you.’ And we were charged for I think 30 or
40 lunches that day out of the 60.
 W3-51: Well, like I was saying, when they had screwed up didn’t have any meat for the
seg unit one day, they had to send down another 4 trays. So now we’re getting doublecharged for the same meals that technically should have been right the first time.
Aramark accused COs of not reporting meals, and so meal count discrepancies were attributed to
the COs. COs observed the deliberate inflation of meal numbers by Aramark.
 B3-15: Yeah, it was in their paperwork when they first started. An officer’s eating, and
this is where it comes in I know for a fact because I caught them on it, is an Aramark
director, what do you call, cooking the books I guess. He says, ‘I don’t care what these
officers get. You keep track of what they get. If it’s an apple, you charge them for a meal.
If it’s 2 pieces of chicken, you charge them for 2 meals.’ He’s also got a prisoner that’s
been there working for, since ’07, this prisoner’s been at my place, now he’s gone, ‘Hey,
you want 2 pieces of chicken today? You want….,’ you know, ‘You want this? Hey Serg, I
got apples over here. Would you like an apple?’ And he’s over there making little hash
marks down on his thing, and so now the state of Michigan has to, they pay I think $3 for


my meal. Now if I get 2 pieces of chicken, they have to pay, triple, yeah double or triple
the amount of that. So if I get 2 meals, one extra chicken, that’s one meal, so they have to
charge for my second…..they’re going to charge 9 bucks,
 J3-41: And then the officers come in, and they’re allowed, the inmate workers are
allowed to eat whatever they want. 3, 4, 5, 6 rations, so they’re hundred rations are
gone, and they’re charged as officer dining, for a while they were cooking the books that
 GG1-49: Well, I got into an argument….a big argument…I mean I had to excuse myself
from the area for like 20 minutes to calm down. This guy, this Aramark worker, he….they
always want to accuse the staff of taking trays, and I said, ‘How do you know this?
You’re just assuming this. Do you walk those trays down to those units, and see officers
eating those trays? You can’t tell me that you do that because you don’t do it. You don’t
see an officer eating…’ because there’s certain trays that go out to the units, and there’s
certain trays that are fed on line. You might see an officer eating a tray that’s on the line
that comes from the line, but you don’t never see an officer eating trays that are in the
boxes that go down to the inmates that have to eat in the unit.
GG1-50: But they accuse us. That’s their only way to justify that they’re wrong. ‘It must
be the officers that are doing this.’ So I take offense to that, and I take big time offense in
that, them saying that we do it, that it’s on us, that we’re the ones that are sabotaging
 L2-32: We have on camera the other day, they left at our place at ____ on second shift.
11 officers ate between the dorm and around the units ate a tray. Aramark’s count that
day was 38 employees.
 W3-16: I’ve also noticed at our facility, for night shift, I don’t know how you guys’
facilities work, they put 20 meals in that cooler, and I know for a fact not even close to
that many on night shift actually eat that meal, but yet we’re getting charged for it.
Discrepancies between OMNI and tray counts happened frequently, imposing an added burden on
MDOC supervisors. Dealing with meal count disputes was time consuming.
 T1-44: Well, that’s how Aramark gets paid too. That’s what their main concern is with us
is with that tray count correct?
Someone: Yep.
T1-44: How many did we feed? If this matched, you know if you had a laying tray where
a guy can’t you know come to the Chow Hall for whatever reason you have, the tray is
delivered, you’re supposed to you know add the trays delivered, trays served, and it’s all
supposed to you know, match with the amount of bodies that were on there. If you got you
know, we had supposedly served you know, 50, let’s just say 50 guys, but really 75 guys
showed up, but only on the computer swiped, only showing 50 I don’t know, they’re not
going to get paid for those 25. So they are really, that’s all they’re concerned about is the
accurate tray count.
GG1-44: It’s put a lot of more work on the sergeant…one of the sergeants who have to
come down, they have to go over this what they’ve got on their piece of paper, and then


they got to get it off the OMNI system, how many people actually came down, and it takes
some you know, ½ hour stole out of their day just to match the count, and that was never
before. I mean we never done that. It’s always you know, the kitchen…..
 BN2-99: I mean when I watched a couple of administrators, a supervisor, all….and then
you got Aramark…..all gathered in an office because they’re trying to figure out this tray
count thing, and when you see them there for 2 hours to figure that out…..what if the
state’s just paying for 2 hours to try to figure out….
L2-99: We have weekly meetings….
BN2-99: ……why they couldn’t account for 3 trays.
L2-99: Ours has weekly meetings with the deputy….2 deputies and a warden….and then
3 Aramark supervisors have a weekly Monday morning meeting, every week.
 L2-101: Shift commanders got to do paperwork after every meal, with these numbers,
these counts….they got to call it out for them, ‘What did you guys feed?’ ‘Any issues?’ ‘2
Block? 5 Block? 8 Block? 1 Block? The Chow Hall?
MK2-101: Then they……
L2-101: They put all that back together. They got to put it all together. They got to bring
the form in, you got to get all the numbers from the Aramark signed, then you got to
compare them, then you got to send it to the deputy, then you got to send it to the
warden…..that’s all this un-needed, added, paperwork, time consuming, everything else,
it takes place after every fricking meal.


Theme 4: Risks to Personnel and Inmates
Overall, the officers believed that risk throughout the system increased with privatized food. Risk
was higher for officers, inmates and contractor employees.
4.1 Loss of Security Back-up Support
One direct form of risk to COs was the loss of back up support in the kitchen and chow hall areas
in the event of an inmate disturbance. Aramark personnel did not perform the security duties as
stipulated in the original service agreement (see Appendix A).
 RZ3-78: Do you feel like you’re more at risk now because of this contract?
Several: Yes….
P3-78: 100%.
B3-78: And not just us, I mean yeah as a whole…..because before all officers were……
P3-78: If it’s going to come between me and an Aramark employee telling who what’s
going on and a prisoner’s going to be on the Aramark’s side, and I’m the one who’s
going to take the ass whipping.
B3-78: Because we had state employees, they were almost as security-minded as we
 RZ1-56: Before Aramark did you have occasions where the food service supervisor
would back up Corrections Officers during an incident?
GG1-56: What do you mean back up?
Several: Oh, yeah.
G1-56: Regular state staff? Oh, yeah they have.
GG1-56: Like if we’re wrestling with somebody?
RZ1-56: Yeah.
Someone: Oh, yeah.
Someone: They’d dive right in.
Someone: Yep.
RZ1-56: They would? OK, and does that still happen with the Aramark employees?
Several: No.
 BN2-13: I mean you had 8-10 food stewards [state workers] that, at my place, they
averaged 10 years. They had 10 years, and it was like it was a group that we worked


right alongside them. It was like you know, I assisted them they assisted me. I knew if I
had an issue I had them responding. We had stewards that were on the ERT team.
RZ2-13: What’s the ERT?
Several: Emergency Response Team.
Several officers foresaw (or were worried about) major conflict. Not a single CO could describe
a case where a contractor employee assisted with an inmate conflict. Contract employees refused
to conduct security procedures even though it was stipulated in the service contract. The MDOC
administration was aware of this continuing contract violation, but acquiesced.
 P3-80: Well, if there’s only one of me in the kitchen, and the rest are Aramark and I see
how disrespectful the prisoners are to the Aramark employees… know, they’re not
disrespectful to me like that because I’ll tase their asses, but one day it’s going to come
down to an argument and they’re going to be on Aramark’s side…..I’m going to get my
ass whipped. I already know it’s coming one day.
J3-80: Yes, I can see a major confrontation….
D3-80: Coming…
J3-80: ….coming someday, and I’m just waiting for the day that’s going to happen where
I’m going to be rolling around on the ground…..
W3-80: And the question’s going to be what side are the red shirts [Aramark employees]
going to be?
RZ3-80: Would the former [State] employees back you guys up if something happened?
Several: Oh yeah.
 J1-75: When it jumps off at ____, you know, black and grey rule, we’ll respond. That’s
great. I have absolutely zero faith and I have yet to see any red shirts [Aramark
employees] jump in.
 L2-34: We’ve had someone go off because, hurt their knee and what not, helping to
respond to a fight and breaking up fights all of this stuff because if you didn’t, everybody
that’s a state employee, whether you’re A-RUS or ROM or whoever, whatever your title
is around the institution to help put out, if you don’t respond to help to that, you could be
Someone: Yeah because……
L2-34: It’s not the case now with these Aramark employees. They just sit back and most
of the time somebody gets cut in the area….oh, they freak out and they run in the back
room and go start bawling. “Oh my gosh, what did I get into?’
 J1-57: I haven’t actually read the Aramark contract, but somebody mentioned to me that
it was in the contract that Aramark is authorized to shake these guys down as needed.
Like when it was under state control, if they thought somebody was under suspicion,


they’d just call them over and give them a pat down, you know, make sure they’re not
carrying anything.
RZ1-57: Right.
J1-57: I’ve have Aramark coming up to me multiple times during the day. ‘Hey, shake
that guy down.’ ‘Why do I got to shake him down? Fuck you, you shake him down.’
 H5-57: The last food service guy [State MDOT] I worked for, _____, he had your back
100%. If an inmate, one of his workers was getting in your face as the officer, he’d be
right behind you, you know, and if you couldn’t diffuse that inmate and get him to calm
down, ____ could, you know, because he worked with them day in and day out. Aramark,
if there’s any screaming or anything, something’s happening, they’re going the other
way, ok, they’re not there. They’re supposed to be there, I mean we’re there for them, but
they don’t back us up in anything.
N5-58: Every state employee, officers, nurses, anybody that works for the state inside,
even like our psychologist, they take the PA415, and if there’s a fight and they’re around,
they’re supposed to help, even if it’s just getting on the phone and calling somebody,
they’re supposed to help. They can put handcuffs on them, they can you know, whether
they feel comfortable jumping into a fight or not is different, but they’re trained basically
to do these things and they can help.
M5-58: I was, I asked this inspector guy, I said, ‘Should I be encouraging, if I’m getting
beat up, should I encourage these Aramark workers to help….get him off of me or
anything?’ He said, ‘No, do not. If they do, that’s all on their own, tell them that’s
not… can get in trouble…..’ So they’re not responding to any event like that.
T5-58: Actually if you read the Aramark contract, I believe it’s page 25 or 27, it says
that Aramark is responsible to respond to all facility emergencies. A facility emergency
would be a staff assault, a medical emergency. I’ve brought this up, I’ve fought with my
supervisors at work about this, I’ve taken it all the way up to the Deputy Warden, and
they keep telling me, ‘No, no, no. We don’t want them involved in any of that stuff. Don’t
worry about it.’ But according to their contract, they are required to respond to any
facility emergencies.
 S4-31: Well I know at our place the Aramark people are not counted on or expected to
provide any help during the service. Okay. They’re classified as non-custody and we have
a lot of non-custody staff, state employees that work in the prison. And they have been
trained to a lesser degree than the officers have but as far as what to do during a
disturbance, not actually jumping in and you know in a pile up or whatever. But as far as
they can do crowd control, make sure that the other inmates are staying away. Um they
could get on their radio and call for help. But…
RZ4-31: Do they do that now?
S4-31: No the Aramark people are not required to do that. So you would get, probably no
help at all from them. Maybe not from all of them, there’s a couple Aramark people that
are placed that I think would try to do something. But for the most part they are not
required to help out.


RZ4-31: And what would the former state worker do?
S4-31: For instance if there was a fight in the kitchen between a couple inmates. I could
see them and I have seen them in the past keeping the other inmates from jumping in you
know. You know go back down the hallway or go out to the dining room, giving orders.
Uh watching our backs as we’re in dealing with the problem, you know stuff like that.
G4-31: Our food stewards actually when they were state employees they did part of
prisoner management with us. You know they’d come up when we’d do certain scenarios
with prisoner management and they’d go through them with us. So there were few
incidents where officers were assaulted and food stewards and they were the first ones to
come to the area.
RZ4-31: Do you trust them to help you out if something is wrong?
J4-32: I don’t think they would help. They would probably just stand back and watch
whatever happens.
4.2 Inmate Access to Weapons
One factor affecting overall risk was increased availability of weapons. Tools from the kitchen
need to be carefully inventoried and monitored. Other materials, such as can lids and chemicals
can be used as weapons by inmates.
 T5-54: A lot of times when I arrive at work at 2:00, I’ll walk by the pots and pans room
and there’s a pile of tools that have been signed out from breakfast. They were signed out
of the tool log at 4:30 in the morning, they’re still out sitting on a shelf in the pots and
pans room, when in theory, all of those tools, if a staff member came in from Aramark at
4:30 and they were leaving at noon, they should collect all of their tools and return them
to the tool room and sign them in, and then if someone needs those tools out, then that
Aramark staff should sign that tool out and before they leave for the day, they should be
signing that tool back in. Now, all of the tools just seem to collect in a huge pile until one
of the Aramark staff finally decides to collect them all, which is usually 2 or 3 trips
worth, back to the tool room to sign them all in at the end of the night.
RZ5-54: And how does something like that affect the risk for you or for other inmates
T5-55: At any time, one of those metal spatulas or scoopers or, you know, things along
those lines can be fashioned into a weapon in a short amount of time, and could end up
definitely being used to hurt somebody.
 D3-8: The first day I worked on food service I walked into the back and there was a table
with all of 20-25 cans with the lids and bottoms cut off of these cans laying on a table,
and nobody watching them. I was like, I thought I was in trouble. Where I came from, if
an officer walked away from cans like that, and lids, you were in trouble, you were going
to get written up for that. I couldn’t believe it. I’m like, oh shit. You know, I thought I was
in trouble, and I went to talk to a couple of employees, the Aramark employees, and
they’re like “no, there’s a camera right there watching everything so we don’t worry
about it.” I was like, [gasp], and then of course I went and talked to some senior staff
members, and they’re like, “they’re [Aramark] allowing it to happen”


 J3-64: I’ve come across….unsecured knives….you know…..real butcher knives….like
Norma Bates movie butcher knives…..they have a cable that are secured to them. They’re
supposed to be padlocked to a table….unsecured….inmate….., ‘Hey, do you want this?
Could you put it away for me?’ You know, I’ve come across unlocked padlocks, you
know, brass 1 lb. padlock, you could put it on the end of a belt and kill somebody with it
in one swing. I’ve come across just amazing……
 H5-70: When I worked with _____, the state food service guy, our oven racks, we had
them set a certain way in the ovens, so we knew that this whole oven, the second bar was
missing on every single rack, so we could open up that oven, and just literally go down
the racks and we knew the second bar on every rack was missing. Now you open up the
ovens and you physically got to look at every piece, every bar, you almost got to grab
them and pull them because Aramark, and I’ve told Aramark, ‘Hey, this rod’s missing off
this rack. Do you know where it is?’ ‘What are you talking about?’ It’s your rack, you
should know what I’m talking about. The can lids, state workers knew they gave out 30
cans of peaches, they expected 30 cans, and if they opened top and bottom, 60 lids or 30
lids back, they accounted for them. Aramark, you find can lids in the back dock, I find
them back there all of the time, on the back dock, they’re in the office where prisoners,
you know, go up there and talk to them. They’re scattered throughout. There’s no
accountability for none of this other stuff that they’re supposed to be watching for.
 D4-4: …security, I come in at night and same thing. The walls are… I have photos and
documentation that I have turned in and sent to the supervisors and uh it’s a real mess. I
come in one time and there was a whole palate of caustic.
RZ: What’s a caustic?
D4-4: Cleaning solution, anything that’s hazardous. Clean chemicals that are supposed
to be locked in an area and it was on the back dock behind one closed door but the
prisoners go back there to change when they leave. You know so they have access to it. I
come in to do my first round and there would be the chemicals lying around in the
bathroom back by the kettles where they cook and uh in cups, in pails left out. That’s
supposed to be signed out and overseen when they’re using them. And you know
obviously that is not being overseen.
RZ4-4: So you’re concerned that those chemicals could get stolen?
D4-4: Not only stolen but could be thrown in the food. They could be tossed in the
officer’s eyes while he’s doing a round.
4.3 Unjust Treatment of Inmates
Fair treatment of inmates within the prison is critical to maintain perceptions of justice. The lack
of training among contractor employees resulted in the abuse of inmates, more punishment, and
an increase in solitary confinement.
 S2-18: … there was an Aramark employee, his name was ____, I think his first name was
____. He was on the job for about 3 weeks. He was kind of like a gung-ho guy to me,
clear that he was military police, but this guy was only 22 years old, whatever the story
is. So under this guy you know, he was kind of harsh the way he talked to the prisoners


like, ‘I’m military police. I’m your supervisor. I told you to do this…’ There’s a certain
way you need to talk to them, but the point is we were running breakfast lines, I was
kitchen officer that day and it was like 6:45 in the morning, he comes off the line, came to
me and said, ‘That guy over there just clipped me.’ I said, ‘Clipped you? What do you
mean by clipped you?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, he clipped me. He put his shoulder into me.’
And because he didn’t tell me the story that the other female Aramark employee, there
was 2 Aramarks on the line, observed this inmate getting out too much bread, so she
moved him from passing out bread down to the end of the line passing out silverware. So
he’s telling me this I said, ‘Well it’s understandable. The inmate might be a little mad,
ok.’ So he says, ‘As he was walking by, I was standing there and he threw his shoulder
into me.’ I said, ‘Ok.’ I called the other sergeant over, ended up taking him to the hole for
assaulting a staff. So, when all this was done the sergeant told me to help him write the
ticket. I said, ‘Ok, well he doesn’t, he’s never had the training. We don’t go through this
training for writing the tickets.’ So I said to him and I asked him, I said, ‘Ok you say he
clipped you…ok, did he hit you on the left shoulder into your left shoulder or the right
shoulder into your right shoulder? Were you standing still?’ He says, ‘I was standing
still. He was upset because he was being moved from bread to silverware, and he threw
his left shoulder into me.’ I said, ‘Was it intentional?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Ok. That’s
what you need to put on the ticket. The part that you were standing still, he hit you left
shoulder into left shoulder....’ I said, ‘Did he hit you hard?’ He said, ‘Yeah hard enough
to where I had to step back and maintain my balance.’ I said, ‘That’s what you need to
put into the ticket, and “prior from being moved from bread to silverware” doesn’t need
to be put on the ticket.’ He erased the ticket. It just so happens there was a camera there
so they ended up reviewing, this was on a Tuesday, they reviewed the footage. For the
next couple days, I hear that an Aramark supervisor and this guy ____ was called over to
the inspector’s office. I’m like what’s going on? On Friday I come to work, the inspector
calls me into the office. I said, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ He says, ‘Have a seat.’ I say, ‘What’s
going on?’ He says, ‘Oh, we’re waiting for ____…’ which is our facility Union
President. I said, ‘____? For what?’ Inspector says, ‘Well ____, there’s potential
disciplinary action for you.’ I said, ‘For what?’ He said, ‘He said you helped him, he
said you coaxed him writing the ticket.’ I said, ‘Ok, get ____ here.’ So my Union guy got
there and we started talking about it. I said, ‘I never told him what to write.’ I said, ‘I
asked him how this had happened.’ The inspector pulled up the video, and it was clear
that the inmate was coming this way here, this guy stepped to the side to let him go by.
RZ2-19: So there was no bump?
S2-19: There was no assault at all. They ended up letting this guy out of the hole……
S2-19: That’s exactly it that they’re not getting the training, you know, that we get so they
are unaware of what happens and what proper procedures to use or to take. And if you
got a, this is a problem that I have, if I………we’re supposed to do 5 shakedowns on
prisoners every day, ok. If I don’t do my shakedowns and I just take this guy’s name and
write his name and number down, that’s falsifying documentation. You’re fired. This guy
just put a prisoner in the hole for something that never happened. It’s on camera, it’s
very clear that he stepped back and moved his shoulder for this person to go on through.
His shoulder grazed the front of his shirt, but that was non-intentional assault, and then
when you got chow lines with 5 prisoners here serving and 5 prisoners here serving it is
tight. Ok, so it’s fully not an assault and it is a tight area, you are going to brush against


RZ2-19: So what happened with the Aramark employee?
S2-19: Nothing. Nothing.
 J2-26: We’ve got an employee we just hired. She’s 20 years old. She’s 5’3” about 95 lbs,
long, blonde hair. And last week I look over, she’s standing on a milk crate on the line,
ok, and she has no clue where she’s at because she’s looking down, and I’m sorry I’ve
seen this a couple times, she was white, and she just talks down like dogs to the guys that
are Mexican, Black guys, she’s screaming at this guy like, ‘You’re going to fucking do it
because I said so,’ and I’m like this girl is going to get her fucking mickey blown out.
She’s going to get knocked the fuck…and you just see it, and guys will come to me,
prisoners will come to me, they’ll go, ‘Man, she came back here and she was just like,
“Why do you guys talk so ghetto?”’ ‘But what are you talking about?’ ‘You know why do
you guys talk so black?’ We’re like………she can’t, she has no clue where she’s
at…..she’s just……an ______. But that guy stopped and we had to cuff him and take him
down because he’s going, ‘She can’t talk to me like that.’ And she’s standing on a milk
crate looking down at him screaming, ‘You’re going to fucking do this!’
 L2-36: …we had an Aramark supervisor that would come in and kick another one of their
[inmate] employees…that Aramark supervisor that did it, the state did an investigation,
but if that would have been any of us, we would have been excessive use of force, time off,
what not. This individual should have had time off, but there was nothing not even
disciplinary help because they had to go to Lansing and say, ‘Hey, what jurisdiction did
we have over this?’ This individual is still working with Aramark yet today.
4.4 Inmate to Inmate Conflict
Justice entails protecting inmates from predatory behavior of other inmates. When food quantity
and quality declined, powerful inmates robbed food from other inmates. Inmates within the
kitchen are coerced by others into committing infractions.
 A1-23 They get pressed and squeezed, which means that they don’t get what they should
be getting. Somebody else will take their stuff, like the kid that takes the lunch money in
school, well they get bullied into ‘Oh, I’m going to take your tray. I’m going to eat your
tray.’ I mean we see that in our facility, I just caught somebody 2 days ago, 3 days ago
you know, ‘Give me your cake,’ you know.
J1-24: Just, you got some of the older guys that are you know, only maybe have 2 or 3
years left on their sentence. They just want a, want something to get them out of the unit
to just keep them busy for the day because these units, they’re getting overrun with these
teenagers and early 20’s. You know these kids, these new kids are acting like fools, so a
lot of the old heads come in, they just want to do their job and be left alone. Now I’m
getting some of the new kids that are working food service that want to come in and
disrupt the way the Chow Hall is run, you know. They want to, they always trying to just
steal basically you know. It’s as if, as if another guy, I’m going to say, they’re trying to
press the older guys into giving them….’Give me that tub of peanut butter so I can get it
out.’ And the older guys just want to be left alone and do their job, but yet they don’t
want to come down to either beat the kid’s ass or get their ass beat for a tub of peanut


 B2-83: So you got to tell someone, you know….John’s mom…..say, ‘Your son got stabbed
yesterday because he wouldn’t take anymore hamburger out of here because he’s not you
know, a part of the loop anymore. So if these people’s kids are getting more danger
inside the institution because security isn’t an issue anymore.
RZ2-83: Right.
B2-83: Profit is.
 T2-39: We had a guy recently, I dealt with, he’s telling an Aramark staff, ‘Oh, these guys
are after me because I won’t bow down to them,’ and it could have been true. He said
they wanted to fight him in the back room. So he’s telling her this, I’m sitting there
listening to it, and I’m like, ‘Geez, is this guy playing me or is he for real,’ but I have to
report it. So I report it, they put him up front, they talk to him, next thing you know he’s
back in the Chow Hall working. Now he’s saying, ‘Well, you know, maybe I was a little
overzealous.’ No. He was telling the truth, but now quite possibly sometime in the next 2
weeks this guy is going to be in the hole with a gash in his head or a slice on his face. So
you’re talking medical concerns and cost of the department, you’re talking segregation
time, which is increased cost of the department, loss of programming, which means this
guy is going to be retained longer and can’t get his parole.
 RZ3-53: … have you seen physical altercations increase since Aramark, or no? Have you
seen any changes in that…….
D3-53: I would say like at our prison, we have a whole lot of blind spots, cameras, lack
of cameras, this, that……we tend to see a lot of guys walking around with black eyes that
fell down, and I think there’s a lot of altercations happening that aren’t being caught,
you know, they’re taken care of it on their own, and unless the guy’s beat half to death
and bleeding all over his face, you know, we’re not catching it.
 D4-40: … I had one guy go tell me and he says they always get back with me and they get
a bad meal and they know I’m one of the cooks and they go why are you serving this junk
to us.
RZ4-41: Oh I see, they get heat outside from the prisoners?
D4-40: Yeah back to them from the guys in the unit. They start riding them man why are
you serving that, why are you letting them serve that crap.
RZ4-40: Yeah, I see.
J4-40: Yeah same thing at the level 1 setting we have, those kitchen workers go back and
they’re you know other prisoners are getting on them because the food sucked or
whatever. Or portions were too small. There’s been times where the Aramark people
come out and have a list that says what size label to use to serve let’s say the cabbage
casserole and they bring out the wrong size label and halfway between the lines they
switch it to the proper size. Well then all the prisoners see it and are like why are we
getting small portions and then they yell at the other kitchen workers and are like it’s
their fault not ours!


 J3-62: We’ve had fights in the kitchen between kitchen workers, in front of Aramark
employees. They didn’t say a word about it.
 A5-50: Yeah, gang activity is greatly increased, and then you put alcohol into the mix,
screw around with their food and stuff, it just adds to the violent behavior.
Disputes over women are one source of inmate to inmate conflict. Aramark staffed the positions
with more women than men, and inmates contested over their attention.
 L2-30: Ok. There’s more of those things getting filled up. We even had at one point in
time, 2 inmates fought over a female that was screwing with another inmate, ‘Ah, she’s
mine,’ ‘She’s mine,’ and believe it or not, it happened right in the Chow Hall during
chow lines.
 J4-30: Yes a couple weeks ago we had one Aramark, she was sitting with one prisoner
and she was also letting them work. They were able to work overtime, he was able to
work afternoon shift and she worked a day shift. He’d come in and get overtime and then
they would sit a table together and sit there and talk. And I’ve had other inmates and tell
me that _____ , excuse me but, this guy’s been threatening us if we talked to her, he
threatened to kick our ass in the bathroom if we were in there. If he come in there he
threated to kick our ass. I informed, yeah he was jealous for them, if they talked to her for
something that was simple you know about the food prep. I informed our lieutenant and
captain and the inspector and then the inspector he got some snitch kites from prisoners
that worked in there about this one prisoner and that Aramark employee; he came down
and asked me which one it was. I pointed him out and the next day he fired them out of
the kitchen and put them on yard crew so but she’s still working there and I’m always
trying and watching to see who she’s talking to next.
RZ4-30: explain how that causes problems potentially with a prisoner?
J4-30: well there’s hostility between the inmates especially in the kitchen. What that one
guy threatening the other workers, they were afraid to get beaten or assaulted in the
RZ4-30: So when a supervisor shows favoritism to a prisoner then it causes conflict
among the prisoners/inmates? Are you seeing that also?
S4-30: Yeah I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. And it does create jealousy. This certain inmate is
getting attention from a female Aramark person and you know. Anyone of these inmates
would like attention from a female you know. They’re locked up in prison for how long
without any female you know. So yeah it’s definitely. And we’ve lost some Aramark
people because of that.
4.5 Inmate Risk due to Food, Sanitation, or Equipment
Respondents discussed how the food quality and sanitation created risk for inmates. Inadequate
training on equipment was responsible for inmate injuries.
 B2-78: Well they proved that it [illness outbreak] was the food, you know, that it’s a
stomach virus but they had like 400 counts of people wanting to go to health care.


 N5-42: … yeah, sanitation and cleanliness is another really big thing with the inmates. If
you’re messing with, there’s a lot of germaphobic inmates because you’ve got so many
people in there. A lot of them, they put a sock, one of their own clean socks that they have
designated to talk on the phone, to put it over the phone to talk because that’s how
worried they are about catching something in there. So if they find out that, you know,
their dishes aren’t even getting cleaned, you know, you’re putting their food on dirty
trays maybe, you know, we’ve got some of them….you know, we have to take their ID’s
and scan them. Well, a lot of the inmates don’t want to touch their ID after we’ve touched
it and everybody else’s. So they’ll have a piece of paper, that they’ll hand you their ID in
the paper and then take it back, just so that they don’t have to touch their ID before they
go eat. So germs and cleanliness is actually a big deal to them.
 W3-49: We’ve had to send meals back from segregation…they’ll send chicken legs down
with the bone still in it……
D3-49: You can’t do that….
W3-49: You know, you don’t do that…..
D3-49: ….with a high-risk prisoner that was just smearing shit on the windows 2 hours
J3-49. You’re talking, when you’re in segregation, guys will cut their veins open with a
straw, a Hi-C straw or whatever, if they get a hold of one….
RZ3-49: Wow.
J3-49: And it’s been done, you know what I mean, so it’s very a lot of these meals are
extremely important, like there’s people that they’ll die if they eat fish. Die…medically
RZ3-50: Right.
J3-50: You know what I mean? Or peanut butter or whatever….
RZ3-50: They could have allergies?
J3-50: Or whatever, allergic reactions, and they’re not…..these meals are not being
watched by Aramark food supervisors, they’re not, they’re just……..I call around to the
units and say, ‘What do you need?’ The officer working that unit gives me it, I put that
together a list, I spend a half an hour doing that every day. I turn the list in to the
Aramark employee supervisors, they hand it to the inmates, the inmates put it together.
Off it goes. Immediately after it’s out and the stuff gets passed out, I’m answering phone
calls. ‘Yep, you missed this.’ ‘You missed that.’ ‘You got to send over 6 more regs.’
RZ3-50: And the corrections officer does that work?
Several: Yes.
 G4-29: We had an instant where one of the Aramark food stewards that delivers the food
down to the camp backing up actually hit an inmate and if it would have been the state


food stewards in the bus that would’ve done it we would have been going for a piss test.
We would have been… he just got told he couldn’t drive the truck anymore until he had
truck training.
RZ4-29: So a different standard then for Aramark? A different standard in terms of
treatment when things go wrong?
G4-29: Yeah I mean the inmate didn’t get hurt that bad. It was still, if it was any of us, we
probably would have been gone or probably fired.
 G4-45: Okay well Aramark people aren’t being trained on how to use the equipment in
the kitchen but telling the inmates how to use them and we had a guy break his wrist
trying to stick it into the bowl when he shouldn’t have and a guy cut the end of his thumb
off. Many other minor injuries that come from nobody being trained and they’re trying to
tell these guys how to use this stuff when they don’t know how to use it themselves.
4.6 Risks for Contractor Employees
Professionalism in the prison requires that personnel refrain from establishing friendships with
inmates. Over-familiarity is a step in the anatomy of a setup. Respondents observed an absence
of caution by contractor personnel when interacting with inmates. Inadequate training and
experience was associated with risk to contractor personnel.
 J1-31: State workers, when it was under state control, keep their personal business to
themselves or maybe just among their coworkers. The Aramark workers I’ve seen, have
got no problem telling these guys where they live. ‘Oh, hey I just bought a new car.’
‘Yeah, my kid’s going into soccer.’ You know, convicts don’t need to know that
GG1-31: I mean you can get the job done without giving out your personal information.
You can, you know, they can, they don’t have to be that friendly. You can you know, you
can have rapport with the workers, and you know if they do a good job, you know, ‘Hey,
that was a good lunch you know, guys……it went good,’ you know, but……you can give
them that kind of praise, but you don’t have to be their friend. You don’t have to. We’re
not there to be their friends, we’re there to make sure you know, everybody goes home in
8 hours, you know?
 J3-61: Going on that security, like with names and addresses and stuff, they watched an
Aramark, like they’re so un-security conscious it’s not even funny, watched an Aramark
employee one day, they were, let’s say two of them on duty. One of them needed some
scrap paper or whatever and, ‘Oh, I got to go up and get some scrap paper to write
numbers down on,’ and they allowed these inmates, they carry a clipboard around with
all of their, you know, meal totals and where this guy’s supposed to be working and
where that guy’s supposed to be working. A clipboard full of information and they
allowed the inmates to just, we would never allow them to touch any of our stuff, not even
my ink pen, and these guys will just let them. Just…….
P3-61: Anything.
J3-61: Well, _____ goes into the office, grabs some scrap paper you know, slapped it on
his clipboard, laid it down there, and the inmates are *flips through pages* and the other


Aramark employee comes up to me just, I see her just screaming at this other Aramark
employee, her partner, screaming at him, right out in the open during chow lines. The
guy shook his head and walked away, apologized, whatever. She comes up to me and
she’s like, ‘Listen, this guy’s an idiot.’ He turned around and went and got a scrap piece
of paper, and what it was, was an Aramark phone number contact list of all of the
Aramark employees flat there right there on the clipboard, and left it sitting on the desk,
and the reason she found out about it…..she didn’t even know it existed, she….
Someone: The prisoners told her……
J3-61: Yeah, an inmate says, ‘Hey, you know, by the way… wouldn’t be a big deal if
an inmate knew your phone number.’ And she’s like, ‘What?’ ‘Well, you know it’s not
like I know that your phone number is……,’ blah, blah, blah, blah. He told her, her phone
number, and she was like, ‘Where did you get that information from?’ He said, ‘On the
clipboard. Everybody knows it.’ She went to the clipboard, and that’s when she blew up.
It’s just…….
D3-61: Rightfully so.
 J3-64: I’ve come across Aramark employees locked in the cooler before.
P3-64: We had an Aramark female wearing a prisoner’s coat because she was cold up
all in the kitchen. The prisoner was just like, ‘Oh, you want to borrow my coat?’ She was
like, ‘Yeah, thank you.’ He put the coat on for her and she was just walking around the
kitchen in a prisoner’s coat because she’s cold.
RZ3-64: And explain why that’s a risk.
J3-64: Well, first of all it’s an overfamiliar area, big time risk….
RZ3-64: Ok.
D3-64: Huge…
W3-64: Plus if she happens to wander towards the fence, a guy [CO] notices, she might
get shot.
P3-65: Prisoners are filthy, dirty, Hepatitis-C……
 T2-24: The MDOC is so complicit in endangering the Aramark people, the line staff, it’s
incredible. [describes differences in training], 2 months at the academy, then a
mentorship for 10 months; 2 months red tag, 8 months green tag, then under direct eye of
status officer. Our level of training is so far superior than [Aramark’s], and the most
important thing about our training is the mentoring time. That is so important. It gives
them [new employees] time to identify with us, to see what we do and why we do it, and I
mean it’s……the MDOC is endangering these people. They’re complicit.
 A5-55: We just had one inmate threaten an Aramark worker the other day, and the
Aramark worker just didn’t know what to do and didn’t bother putting a pin or a PPD or
anything, and it never escalated or anything else….actually I think an inmate ended up
stepping in and getting the other one to calm down, but the damage had been done, but it


wasn’t, you know, there again it just goes back to the training, and with the tools and
stuff they have zero training on the tools. At our facility, one day the tools, the critical
tool room key came up missing with an Aramark worker, and they went to put tools away
and, ‘Oh, he’s got it. No, she’s got. No, he’s got it’. Well it turns out that it was left in the
office and then somebody was eating their tray, they managed to drop the tool key onto
the tray, and the tray got dumped into the garbage, and so we’re out dumping out the
garbage cans outside the back of the building, scurrying through the garbage, hoping the
keys are there and not in the trash compactor already. In the meantime, maintenance, it
was a weekend, maintenance is coming in to start changing the locks on everything
because that ring of keys had keys to the office, keys to the critical tool room, keys to the
storage room, keys to the commissary, to the cooler, and everything else that everything
else that whatever inmate got a hold, the Warden’s wide open to them in the food service.
Fortunately an inmate didn’t have them, and they threw them in the garbage.


Theme 5: Sources of Problems
Participants offered thoughts on the fundamental causes of these problems.
5.1 Divided Loyalty and the Profit Motive
Divided loyalty was described as a fundamental cause. Food service workers were under a
separate administrative authority. Aramark’s interest in maximizing profit under a pay-per-meal
contract incentivized cuts in labor and material expenses; their employees were rewarded and
punished based on this narrow measure of performance.
 W3-37: Especially when they had a qualified workforce that was…….we worked together
a lot, I noticed that when we had state employees. We were all in the same boat together,
so we all had to either sink or swim together. Aramark’s not so much…..can’t even really
say even close….
B3-37. A lot of it I think it is, is because they don’t work for the state and they have to
answer to Aramark. I tell them, I say they still have to answer to us, they still have to
answer to our shift command if you have a complaint or whatever, they have to do
something about it.
 MK2-12: When you had the food stewards in here, they were just worried about doing
their job and getting things done, and taking care of business. Aramark’s just worried
about your bottom line and how much they can make.
 B2-33: The only thing we really have a problem with is like I said, a for-profit company
coming in and the only thing they’re worried about is that profit. They’re not worried
about safety and security. That’s the number 1 reason that I’ve seen at our place alone, is
they don’t care about safety and security, and that’s what the department, a big headline
is, is you know, we’re here to keep everybody safe and secure, but you’re going to bring a
private company in whose just there to make a buck.
 J3-47: Bonus checks and you know, which would…..which would be incentive for saving
as much money as you can for your facility, for Aramark……..cutting corners, you know,
every which way possible.
 S4-47: And that’s part of the reason of the… or the main reason while they constantly run
out of food because they don’t want to make any extra. You know? They want to make it
right down to the last scoop and the pans empty, perfect. Well it doesn’t work that way.
You don’t know how many people are going to come to breakfast, so they cut it when you
make out the bare minimum, you’re going to run out because they don’t want waste.
G4-47: On the defense of some of the Aramark employees that’s all their bosses order.
They want to make the extra pan and a half but they can’t because they’re barely having
enough if they do what they do because they don’t order it.
 M5-20: … and I go back there and hang out with the actual supervisor and he was telling
me about their job, and they get so much pressure from their corporate……costs, costs,
costs, costs….coming in these emails. They showed me them. Just in last week we had the,
the head supervisor, he just left, he just walked out with nothing, and I could see he was
trying really hard, but man he… was just coming back to costs, costs, costs, ‘Oh, ok.


Cut some more. Cut some more,’ you know and it’s just…………I can guess what they’re
dealing with.
 L2-73: We had a supervisor that when Aramark had started to fight back and this guy got
fired, and everybody in the institution knew it because he’d come through. He’d say,
‘Hey….,’ he’d tell us, ‘Hey they’re doing this, and it shouldn’t be….,’ blah, blah, blah,
and he actually got fired because he was trying to do it the correct way.
RZ2-73: Ok, so the Department of Corrections is actually coming down on some of the
unprotected administrative people who are raising complaints about Aramark?
L2-73: No, no. Aramark fired him.
RZ2-73: Oh, Aramark fired him.
T2-73: They cannibalize their own people.
5.2 Insufficient Contractor Employee Pay
A major cost item is employee pay. Pressure to cut costs placed constraints on Aramark in the
ability to compensate FSLs commensurate with the responsibility, skill and risk associated with
these positions. Officers did not have specific information on contractor employee pay, but there
was universal agreement that the compensation was too low to attract and retain talent.
 D1-59: But I think the big difference is you’re paying somebody $9, $10/hour….
GG1-59: I was getting ready to say that…
D1-59: Versus paying them $18-$20/hour…
GG1-59: Right.
D1-59: There’s a big difference in the quality of the employee.
 T2-38: They’re not going to do that job for $12/hour…
 D3-6: …going back to the training thing and the $10 an hour job. …they can go to a gas
station and get a job making the same money. There’s no real pride.
 L2-15: But I think the biggest problem, and this is my opinion, is these people are making
$12-$14/hour, ok. They don’t care.
 S4-37: Yeah and to be honest with you when you’re hiring people for $11/12 an hour,
you’re not getting the cream of the crop. You’re getting a bunch of people that work at a
gas station and they don’t amount. I’m not downgrading the people but you’re not getting
top-notch workers and then so we deal with that. And then the problem of not being
trained properly and understanding the prison setting in general, you know it’s an issue
that I see will continue being an issue just because of the high turnover rate. You’re
constantly getting new employees coming in and not being trained and like I said before
they start to grasp it a little bit and then they’re gone and we start over again.


D4-37: I don’t know how they’re actually hiring the people but as far as cooking food for
prisoners, I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of top-notch people coming in and apply
for that job without decent benefits and stuff. And there are a lot of people that are
unemployed and people are trying to make a go of it and you know I respect all that but
for what their pay is and what they’re actually…they’re right there with us. And without
skilled training to handle the guys, these guys [inmates] are good and they’ll smooth
somebody over in 5 minutes, they’re smooth talkers. You know they’ll make somebody
think and talk a female officer in 5 minutes and turn her around and she could be in the
best marriage or whatever and they’ll work her and she’ll think she can’t live without
them. And they have all day long to think about this stuff and they do. And some guys are
really good at it.
 M5-46: I think it’s the pay, I mean, a lot of them are trying to work two jobs, a lot of
them, ‘Oh, how did I get into corrections,’ you know, it’s just not a career path
field….and then you’re in a tough environment, you’re not working at McDonald’s,
you’re working with these felons that will manipulate and, you know, you’re making them
bucks now and thinking how are you going to support your family if you have one, you
know. It’s just not a career, it’s a career job that has very vital importance, and they’re
not paying them, compensating them right. There’s the turnover, and fired, and drugs,
and it’s a lot…
5.3 Contractor Employee Turnover
Low compensation and pressure from top management to cut costs has facilitated FSL turnover.
Turnover was often voluntary, with contractor hires leaving due to the low pay and challenging
conditions. Turnover was also induced by harsh treatment by Aramark top management.
 A5-20: We had what, 200% turnover….at least. We had gone to the red shirts, we call
them red shirts, the Aramark people…..they are replacing them at that office left and
right. No one has lasted……
 T5-22: They just keep coming and going.
 BN2-38: There’s been actually a few that have came in under Aramark that you thought,
‘Man, this person might be pretty decent,’ you know, ‘They would be able to……they’re
smart enough to know not to stay.’ They don’t stay……
Someone: They don’t.
BN2-38: …..and a lot of it is nothing to do with custody, it’s nothing to do with the
inmates. They look at this circus, and they’re like, ‘No. No I’m not dealing with this,’ and
they have left. There’s been 2 or 3 of them that if it was back to the old system with state
kitchen stewards, you would say, ‘Yeah. They’d be a good fit for the state to hire. Bring
them in to do our food service operations.’ None of them are there.
 L2-70: These people only use it as a stepping stone or they can’t get a job elsewhere, but
soon as we can get the good quality staff, as he had said…..As soon as they can get a job
elsewhere, they’re gone.


 J4-31: At our facility I’ve been there 15 years and I’ve only seen one state worker get
fired for over-familiarization where Aramark I think has 3 or 4 that have been fired and
seen 5 or 6 quit. So a big turnover rate.
G4-31: We just lost 4 in the last week. One went to be an officer and the academy started
pretty soon and one was lady in a cooler and then another one, I don’t know exactly what
happened with him, there was something there if Aramark got rid of him or the state
finally said to get rid of him. And I think one was the brother of someone in the cooler
and if he just quit, but he was pretty friendly with the inmates all the time too.
 DN1-19: I can tell you that every week, 2 weeks we lose an Aramark employee, and
there’s another one coming in a couple days later. So, I don’t know how long their
training is or where they’re getting training at. I think they’re getting it from our training
room in the facility, I’m not sure but once one’s fired, there’s another one in like a day or
 B3-35: …he’s a monster. He [Aramark manager] treats his staff like…as low as a
prisoner… front of prisoners, in front of custody staff, everything. He had 5 staff walk
out on him within a week. He had 2 in one day, 2 the next day, 1 just came back to work,
she didn’t come to work for 2 days, came back and quit. We had an older gentleman who
had some problems at our ____ Unit, it’s a Level 1 gate pass and what not to work….he
had some problems over there, and he said, ‘I’m not going to work over there.’ He’s in
his 60’s. He said, ‘If you make me work over there, I’m going to quit.’ So they talked him
into it for over the weekend, the weekend before Memorial Day weekend, and they were
super nice… and the Assistant Food Service Manager came back and said, ‘You got to go
back to _____ Unit.’ He said, ‘I told you I do not want to work there. If you make me
work there, I’m going to quit.’ He says… ‘You are going to go to _____ Unit, and you
are going to listen to me.’ He goes, ‘I’m going to listen to you, but I’m going to show you
where I’m going to go,’ and he grabbed his coat and walked out on him, quit. So that’s 5
employees in less than a week at our place alone.
5.4 Inadequate Training
Turnover increases recruitment costs. To contain expenses Aramark neglected training, and new
recruits were unprepared for work in a prison environment. Aramark apparently hid the realities
of prison work from new recruits.
 DN1-19: I can tell you that every week, 2 weeks we lose an Aramark employee, and
there’s another one coming in a couple days later. So, I don’t know how long their
training is or where they’re getting training at. I think they’re getting it from our training
room in the facility, I’m not sure but once one’s fired, there’s another one in like a day or
 BN2-11: We have literally went through 4 Aramark supervisors. The main sup, ____, the
main supervisor that is supposed to oversee the line, Aramark staff, we have went
through 4. And these people that they have gotten to run this, they’re fresh off the street.
Someone: They don’t have a clue.
BN2-11: They don’t….no clue at all. They’re being trained by the inmates. Inmates are
training them. It’s…….yeah, we’ve went through 4.


 D3-32: And the thing about this, not all of these Aramark employees are horrible people
by any means, it’s just their lack of education in the prison system is creating a lot of
trouble, you know, and it’s a learned process. We take 5 years to get to our max pay
grade because it takes 5 years to figure out the games these guys play. Now when you’re
paying these Aramark employees $10/hour or $11/hour, they’re not going to be there for
5 years, it’s a stepping stone, it’s a joke.
 D4-8: Yeah same facility and in the morning I had a couple guys who work in the kitchen
for a long time and the guy come to me and he says, “you know they don’t know what’s
going on. They don’t even know what they got in the warehouse. I’m a prisoner and I
know what they got in the warehouse.” He knows what’s supposed to be there and what’s
not supposed to be there because he’s been here for so long. And you get some of these
guy who are lifers and that’s their job, they just work in the kitchen all the time. And one
time the guy came to me he says yeah this girl doesn’t know what’s going on, she doesn’t
know how to do anything. And she come in one day and wanted somebody over in the
morning before we usually get our prisoners over and I says my supervisor find out why
she wants somebody. We thought it was like a sexual thing or something so they had me
ask her. She goes no honestly I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to turn the
kettles on and she’s doing the breakfast, the first meal of the day. So she’s definitely not
 M5-23: I actually had yesterday an Aramark lady, she’s just trying real hard, she’s been
there for I want to say 7, 8 months, and you know she checks the inmates, and she says
don’t do this and you know she’s probably one of the better ones, but she’s so
undertrained. She said, we were talking, she said, ‘Yeah, this….,’ I don’t remember the
inmate, ‘….this inmate, he’s been bothering me. This is…..for about 3 weeks now he said
he could make me about $30,000 in one month.’ And I said, ‘Woah, how long has this
been going on for?’ You know….., ‘Oh about a month and he keeps changing the
numbers and…..,’ I said, ‘You got to report that to me. That’s a bribery and we lock him
up immediately. They can’t do that.’ ‘Will they believe me?’ I said, ‘Yeah, you said it.’
And I was looking and I was dumbfounded because we have so much more training, and
then on top of training, we get brought in the facility and we have…..I guess mentors who
understand the job and they train us. All the Aramark people do is say, ‘Ok, here is the
Chow Hall, here you go,’ and read a couple computer policies and then here’s the Chow
Hall. They’re afraid. I think they kind of, I’ve been told by inmates they make alliances,
like, ‘We’ll protect you.’ ‘This group of inmates will protect you guys,’ and then, ‘Oh,
thank you,’ they’ll say
 W3-26: And right now you’ve got inmates, like you said earlier, running that kitchen
because they’re not equipped or trained to deal with inmates. When we first, when they
first took over, we had a couple at our facility, ‘Well, they told me I didn’t have to have
any contact with inmates,’ it’s like really? You’re in an inmate kitchen, it’s like…..
RZ3-26: So they were misinformed….
Several: Yeah.
J3-26: The way they explained was they were going to be preparing meals outside of the
facility, like in TV dinner form…..


5.5 Loss of Professionalism
Inadequate FSL compensation, turnover, and an absence of effective training predictably lowered
the professional status of the occupation. The FSL role transitioned from a career position to a
temporary job.
 GG1-4: Before it was more professional, and they [State workers] cared about what they
were doing, now it’s not. They’re [Aramark employees] not professional. They don’t care
what they’re doing. We hear a lot of ‘It’s not my fault,’ ‘I don’t care.’
 J2-5: … it’s like the state food service workers were a different caliber of employee, you
know what I mean? It was like… in other words, the state food service had a career, and
the Aramark food service [workers] have a job. People don’t care about their job, people
take care of their career. That’s my opinion.
 H5-60: …. at least the state employee knew what was going on, knew he was dealing with
prisoners, knew the seriousness of the situation day in and day out. These Aramark
employees don’t have a clue. They walk around like they’re friends. They talk like they’re
still out in the streets. I’ve heard numerous, when I mentioned the cleanliness of the
kitchen, ‘Not my kitchen. I don’t have to be here.’ The state workers took pride in that.
That was their kitchen. That was their food coming out of there, you know, they took
pride in working in that kitchen.
 N5-45: One of the, I think one of the main differences between Aramark and our previous
state food service was that the state food service workers took pride, like if they had good
food, they were proud of that, you know. They didn’t want to see bad food out on the line
you know. If the Chow Hall was clean, you know, they kind of took pride in that, you
know. Aramark, they don’t care, they’re just there for the check, for the little bit of a
check they’re getting, and you know, they don’t feel like they’re a part of the facility.
They just don’t care, and they’re not going to be there that long just because they’re
turnover rate is so high…
RZ5-46: The difference though, is it just pay or are there other factors you think that
explain why the Aramark employees are different than the former state workers.
N5-46: I think with the state, it was a career. It was something that they were going to be
doing long-term. A lot of the previous state employees, they had been there for 20 years,
you know, 25. The lower ones might have been there for 10, 15. You’re not going to see
all that out of these Aramark people like we’re lucky if they’re there for a whole year.
5.6 Unstable Staffing
Food service leaders do not directly cook and serve meals; they supervise inmates that perform
these tasks. And so the job of managing personnel happens on two levels: (1) the contractor has
to hire FSLs with the talent to manage an institutional food operation within a prison, and (2) the
FSLs must effectively manage inmate labor. Regarding the first, Aramark had a difficult time
scheduling supervisor staff, at times overstaffing to offset turnover and absences. Inconsistent
staffing stressed the contractor employees that did show up to run the kitchen.
 D1-7: They [State workers] would routinely help us, you know as far as getting the ID’s,
getting the inmates sat down so we get count done quicker, and they would always jump


in and help us. We could really work together because right now you got twice as many
Aramark workers as you had state employees, and they still can’t get the job done with
twice as many people.
RZ: Oh. You have more Aramark employees?
D1-7: They got double the amount than they had state employees.
J1-8: At ____ when it was state-run, I typically had 3 food service supervisors. With
Aramark, I have on average, 6-8 per shift. And they still can’t get the job done.
 J1-66: Well it’s, at ____, their days were…..Aramark can’t do a schedule to save their
frickin life, but there are some days where they’ll have 3 or 4 staff, and they’re some days
where they have 7 or 8, and because they can’t do a schedule you got some guys, some
Aramark workers that are doing you know, 60, 70 hours a week. They’re just constantly
there because they’re so short staffed.
RZ1-66: Right.
J1-66: And you get somebody on their 69th hour of the week, they really don’t give a shit
if you walk out with that piece of hamburger or not, you know. They’re mentally beat
 B3-59: [Aramark employees are] not leaving to better themselves. They can’t take it and
they quit. They’re being stressed out, mostly like I said we lost 5 employees in less than a
week because they’re stressed out because of their supervisor, you know.
P3-59: I have one that goes around screaming, crying, yelling, all them prisoners are
seeing them like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ all of those prisoners are watching, ‘Crying?’ I mean
crying. I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh,’
RZ3-59: Oh, a food service, an Aramark worker.
P3-59: Yeah, it’s an Aramark employee you know, but screaming out people’s names and
all of the prisoners are even kind of like, ‘Oh, I think she’s going off the deep end.’
T2-59: These people [Aramark employees], this is not fair to them, it’s completely
dangerous not only to us but to them. A lot of these people would have never done
something like that outside of that prison, but they’ve been put in that position, where
they’ve been compromised and it’s not fair.
Hiring protocols were relaxed to ensure a constant stream of new recruits. For instance, the
contractor failed to screen the relatives of inmates. Contractor management resisted firing
employees to minimize recruitment costs.
 BR2-59: … we have an Aramark staff right now, who has a son who’s locked up, and he
was locked up when Aramark hired her.
T2-59: Do you all remember in the community a few years back, maybe 10 years ago
maybe, the guy had the bomb….blew it up…..gosh what was it…..he was hired by


somebody else to kill the wife I believe it was. Well, that’s his daughter, the 18-year old
they just hired.
 BN2-50: Our shift commander just confronted the Aramark director, and basically just
said, ‘What is up with your staff? What is up with this,’ and his response was, ‘Well, it
only takes one day to fire them and it takes 5 or 6 weeks to replace them.’ ‘So basically
that’s why you just let them go.’ ‘Well, that’s why we have been talking to people because
if we got rid of them it would take 5-6 weeks to replace them,
One change was in the ratio of female to male food supervisors. Most State supervisors were
male, while most contractor employees were female. To fill ranks, the contractor also hired older
workers. Officers perceived female hires as especially vulnerable.
 T2-16: I think it’s important that we bring out the difference and the dynamics from the
MDOC team to the Aramark team. MDOC team and, figuratively, was about 90% men
and a couple tough ladies in there, and a couple of the women on there that worked in
there, they carried a big stick. These guys, you’ve got 95% women in there, and you
know, they’re people that probably should have been retired from other jobs somewhere,
and they’re coming in to work for $12/hr, and you’ve got one young guy in charge of all
these people. He has no clue of what he’s doing. He’s never been mentored into the
security systems and it’s just terrible. I mean they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re
being bullied, they’re being compromised.
 BN2-48: But the way they’ve got their kitchen workers, you know, kicking the bobo with
the fellas, you get groups that congregate around that window, one of them goes sit
down, now you got groups outside there and so you’re not able to see what’s going on
because you got 10 guys out, well half of them just want to look and check out the new
girls that are in these Aramark uniforms, and they’ll come to the door like they have a
concern about their tray when there’s nothing wrong with their tray, they just want to
smell a girl. They want to smell her literally, and the gals that are there, they’re just in
the way. They’re not even ensuring that these kitchen workers do the right thing. They’re
letting them go ahead and just kick the bobo because these guys that are on that serving
line, this is sometimes the only time they can ever get with this certain prisoner because
they’re not supposed to have the contact with them…..different level. We have bi-level, 2
and 4’s, so the only time they’re able to get info to them is when they’re in the chow line.
Well the conversations aren’t supposed to happen, it’s supposed to just simply be keeping
it going, just like a production line in a factory, but it’s not happening. And when you
look at the Aramark staff just sitting there…..she’s just standing there with keys and…..
 D3-7: I’ve seen multiple times female staff holding a bathroom door open in a back
hallway with a prisoner mopping in the bathroom, and talking to him. And it’s like, holy
smokes, it’s so loud in that kitchen, it’s just a terrible, terrible position to put yourself in.
And me as an officer, when I bring it up to the female staff, I’m like, there is no way you
should be doing that, they look at me like I’m ridiculous, like what are you talking about?
And it’s like, wow, they have no idea the safety and security issues. They just don’t have
the training.
5.7 Poor Supervision of Inmate Labor
De-professionalization of FSLs, inadequate training, turnover, and job stress, affected the
management of inmate labor. Inmates took advantage of gullible contractor recruits.


 GG1-28: Ok, at our place, they load, they have to bring the food to us, so the inmates
load the van, the truck, I ask the Aramark staff all the time, ‘Are you back there when
they’re doing that?’ ‘Do you know what’s going on in your cart, on the cart inside your
truck?’ ‘No, usually the inmates do it.’ ‘Well, then how are you going to know that you’ve
got enough, if you don’t, you got a list of what you need. Sit there and check it off.’ The
state workers had always done that. They always knew what they had on the back of their
vehicle. They don’t, they just let the inmates do it.
 B3-14: Over the Memorial weekend, they were just, you know, I knew something was
going on with Aramark being busy, doing a bigger meal than they normally do, prisoners
are gathering here more and more over here and what not, and just before count, when
I’m doing my count round, I got a lot of prisoners, and this is where Aramark doesn’t
realize what they’re doing, being in an area that they’re not supposed to be in, I yell my
count round and I called out to control, ‘Hey, so and so is over in this area. I know
something’s going on. He’s pretending he’s doing something else. I counted him, now
he’s going back over there. Put the camera on that section.’ So he did. He didn’t see
nothing, and when I got done with my count, I shut down, and I found 20 lbs. of raw
hamburger patties, wrapped up in cellophane, saran wrap, and stuffed up underneath the
dish tank drying table, you know….there’s like 90 patties, which you know, they were
going to steal out of there during chow lines, go back to the unit and sell them for store
goods, and they were going to have their own Memorial Day cook-up
 B2-37: And they e-mail inmates pictures and stuff like that, and they still talk to, the
people who have been fired still talk to the people that work there on Facebook, and
they’re training them how to get around the bad people, which is the staff who want
safety and security. They’re teaching them what to look for and how to act because
they’ve been there forever. You got a guy doing 30 years, you bring him back put him in
charge, an inmate, you put him in charge, that’s their best friend. He’s going to be there
all day long. I don’t know how many times I’ve had him come to me and say, ‘Hey, I need
this person called in.’ ‘We got 5 people sitting down. Use one of them.’ ‘Oh, I need this
person because he’s the only one that knows how to do this.’ No. We have never had that
problem before Aramark got there of wanting a person. A body is a body inside of a
prison, but now they have selected inmates, that only those guys know how to do this job
so we got to bring them in.
S2-37: Meanwhile, there’s 10 other prisoners just sitting there……
 S4-42: Another thing is as far as that goes the accountability of the inmates now there is
none. Our state workers used to fill out a daily report on every worker like it was a 1-5
grading system and at the end of their shift you have your production food steward guy
and you have your service. And each one would grade their workers in their area and if
say the dish tank was a mess at the end of the day the guys in the dish tank area were
graded poorly so what you did is create a paper trail. So you’ve finally and if you don’t
see any improvement and you want to get rid of a guy well here’s why. You take the
classifications like you know he’s been written up four times in the last week for leaving
his area dirty and you can get rid of the guy. There is no accountability with the inmates
now, if an inmate’s not doing his job or he’s not where he’s supposed to be they have no
clue as far as disciplining an inmate or what to do with it. They actually tried to start a
daily report on the workers and I think it lasted two days and in fact that was I was in the
office one day and one of the Aramark guys was trying to grade the guys and he’s like


well who’s so and so and I’m like he’s the cook, hm I don’t know him so I’ll skip him. I’m
like No don’t skip a guy you’re supervising, you are responsible for knowing and you
don’t even know him and just going to skip him and not going to do that. No!
J4-42: Even with the sanitation thing, our old food storage had a list on the wall where if
you were in the number one positions in the – line this is your job to have this cleaned
before you leave to go back to your unit. Well Aramark came along and we’ll take this
down and we’ll put our own up and there’s nothing there, the prisoners don’t know what
they’re supposed to clean or anything. So you’re always like why isn’t this clean? Well I
don’t know who’s supposed to clean it and Aramark don’t know who’s supposed to clean
it when before I could go over and look at the wall and say hey prisoner _____, whatever
your name is, you’re supposed to clean that so clean it.
RZ4-42: So the overall, like you say, the management of prisoners has itself declined in
terms of the accountability.
G4-42; Yes big time accountability, there is none.
Lax oversight invites prohibited inmate behavior. Officers apprehend violators of prison rules
and remove inmates from kitchen duty, at least temporarily, which accelerated inmate turnover.
Inmates expressed a preference for State employees.
 D1-25: It’s a higher turnover with kitchen workers right now too because if you’re doing
your custody part of your job, you’re busting multiple people, multiple days, stealing
food. So, if you leave them with a little bit of rope, and the guy you want to get rid of,
eventually you’re going to get him, so you can have him removed.
 L2-82: Yeah. They give them what they got coming, they’re happy. Let’s look at another
parameter. You’re doing a study right? These inmates are getting more…..are getting
misconducts for theft and other things out of the kitchen when we do get a call, and the
more their tickets compound and everything else, their levels [security levels] can go up.
…they can’t wait to get their 6 months to go by and get back in the kitchen again, and
these guys go back in the kitchen, and most of you guys know, I bet you 50% of the
inmates get fired within 6 weeks because of theft down there.
 G4-40: I had an inmate recently that had worked up in the kitchen before with the state
workers were there and I don’t know if he just transferred and got out or what but he’d
come back and he was up in the kitchen, it must have been about two weeks ago, and he
was telling me that he used to have this real hard ass food steward who would do his job,
and he knew his job, and the inmates knew him but he was a hard ass and they all hated
him. And he was telling me the other day boy what I’d give to have so and so back. He
said for how much of an ass he was, I wish he was back here because he said this is just
RZ4-40: An inmate told you this?
G4-40: Oh yeah.
J4-40: I have same thing. We have a couple of prisoners that were in there working the
kitchen for 3 years and they rolled out and they told me too I wish the state workers were
still here because these people don’t know what they’re doing.


S4-40: Yeah I’ve heard the same thing. Man they don’t even know how to run a line yet
and you got to get rid of these Aramark people. The prisoners are saying this!
5.8 Unresponsive Political Leadership
Officers had little faith in top administrators and elected leaders to correct the problems related to
privatized food. Privatization was viewed as an inflexible mandate from Lansing that appointed
MDOC administrators were required to follow. Immediate MDOC supervisors supported COs,
yet concerns sent up the chain of command vanished. Unfavorable news was suppressed from the
public to protect Lansing.
 J3-12: But you’re, you know, this critical tool thing, this room—I sent an email to my
sergeant, sergeant sends it up, comes back. “That’s Aramark’s responsibility.” Okay,
they’re supposed to take care of it. So they get with Aramark, but then they don’t. Okay,
and then, a few weeks go by and I get frustrated, send out another email. Get the same
result, over and over again
 B5-40: ………when the Director said we weren’t going to fine them, they [inmates] were
like, ‘Wait a minute….how can they not feed us. It’s in the contract. They were told if they
didn’t feed us, this was going to happen…….they didn’t feed us and nothing happened?
The only one losing here is us. We filed our grievances, we did everything, we waited.’ So
that’s probably why a lot of grievances don’t get filed. Nothing’s being done about it.
They get the Warden formal meeting, then after that they’re being spun, you know.
 RZ3-37: So at your facility, you feel like you’re getting support from [management]?
P3-37: Yeah. My sergeants, inspectors, you know, they all back me…….you know, it’s a
safe, unsecure place if they aren’t back there.
RZ3-37: How about the rest of you?
J3-37: I feel like I’m getting support from my supervisors, but it doesn’t seem like that’s
doing anything, you know what I mean….that’s all they can do is document stuff, send it
up, and it’s not doing any good.
W3-37: They staff seem to back us up, but at the same time, when it comes to Aramark it
seems like, I don’t know, I think we’ve just been ignored so much in the past that they
pretty much just washed their hands.
D3-37: Nothing’s going to get done….
W3-37: Nothing’s going to be done about it.
D3-37: I think there’s such a huge gray area between Aramark and what we can do, what
we can’t do……the fact that, you know, the…….everything that Aramark has done wrong
has seemed to gone, seemed to have gone….there were no consequences for it, and I
think it’s to the point where our supervisors know even a complaint doesn’t matter.
There’s no sense of even writing it down. It’s kind of a waste of time.


 T5-40: At my facility, I always get tired of writing all of the reports, the_____ reports,
the meal substitution reports….I always do them daily, every night, I’d sit down and have
to do a bunch of reports of everything that was going on in the Chow Hall with
cleanliness, you know, sanitation and the aspects of it, what they run out of….how they
don’t even have soap to run the dish machine, the food shortages, using the wrong size
scoops, if an inmate is supposed to get a half a cup, which would be a 4 oz. serving,
they’re using a 2 oz. scoop….I file all of these reports, my supervisor record them up the
chain of commands, apparently they were supposed to be turned in to allow for these
$500 fines for everything that’s happened, and eventually the state actually changed the
forms around, so now like on the daily count sheet that they fill out at the Control Center
of how many meals were served off the MealTrack system, at the bottom they just put a
notation, ‘Ran out of cornbread,’ _____, and I believe that actually kind of, has hidden,
all of these fineable instances, and I believe the state was smart enough to give them that,
to switch the forms around so they weren’t getting it out like they should be.
H5-40: I’ve emailed our Business Director numerous times; he oversees our kitchen,
about the cleanliness of our kitchen. I’ve talked to the Deputy about the kitchen, overall.
‘You just keep sending that stuff. Keep sending that stuff. This is all the ammunition we
need.’ …I feel like I’m getting spun, which I am. Yeah because ain’t nothing changing.
You’re wasting your time doing all of this.
 T2-65: I’m concerned that all of this fixing of things for Aramark, and making things
work, and stuff not being repaired, and keeping all of this at the lower level, so the
politicians don’t have to look bad, all of this is going to carry over into other
privatization talks……like one of the privatized facilities, like _____ was talking about.
‘Well jeez, this looks good on paper. It looks like Aramark’s doing pretty good.’ When in
reality, they’re failing miserably. ‘So let’s go ahead and privatize something else now.’
Stop orders allowed prison wardens to tag a contractor employee as a violator of protocol and
threat to custody and security. Once tagged, the person would be barred from reemployment at
another facility. The suspension of stop orders was perceived by COs as a way to cover up the
problems with privatization.
 D1-61: Because of the lack of communication and the right paperwork not being
done….it’s….we stop issuing….stop orders on all Aramark….
G1-61: Right, they stopped that.
D1-61: So now they can go to another facility, and start working there until someone
figures it out and connects the dots.
RZ1-61: So like this is important. I want to make sure this is recorded. The stop order is
basically when they tell someone, ‘You can’t work in the prison system anymore,’
G1-61: It’s a big print-out that you used to get that would have their face. They are not
allowed on the facility grounds no more.
RZ1-61: Ok.


G1-61: Well, I don’t know what’s true because I’m not a part of that process, but I
believe it’s……they stopped it because of the vast amount of Aramark workers that were
getting fired, and we were keeping track of it.
 W3-34: Yes. I can’t vouch for other facilities, but I know at ours, you bring up something
to them, you’d be lucky if they even acknowledge the [issue].
D3-34: I brought up [to MDOC supervisor] the issue of the can lids, which is huge. I
mean, the security, it’s ridiculous, I mean, they basically have razor blades this big
around, you know you take a can lid, you could slice somebody’s head clean off with one
of them damn things, and I brought it up to my supervisors, even the inspector, not to
throw anybody under the bus, but he was like, ‘Well, that’s the way they’re doing it back
there, and they’ve been doing it that way for a while.’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’
And at _____, when I came from ______, they weren’t allowed to cut the can lid all the
way off, it had to be connected to the can, and if it was cut off they brought it right to you,
‘Oh man, I made a mistake. I went too far.’ Here they cut top and bottoms off of the lids,
off of the cans. They have 8 in. discs of steel….
 BN2-45: But it’s gotten to the point, and they don’t, they kind of agree with me, it’s kind
of the point where, ‘Ok, I’m going to make sure I do my rounds. Make sure I get on the
camera showing me do my rounds within the time frame that I’m supposed to do them,’
but once I’ve completed that round I don’t want to see or hear what’s going on because
it’s…..even though there is some concern at the institutional level when it comes to shift
command and administration, there may be some concern about what’s going on at their
facility, but there is no concern once it goes beyond that to Lansing.
RZ2-45: So in some cases, let me just understand at this point and then……….so what
you’re saying is that you look the other way when you know things are happening that
are a violation?
BN2-45: There’s no correcting them. There’s nobody that’s going to ever get it fixed.
L2-45: The state knows, they’re just buying into it…
Officers advised inmates to use the grievance process rather than protests to affect food policy.
Others believed that grievance writing was futile, given that the State knew of the problems and
did nothing. Some COs expressed concern that any conspicuous criticism of State policy would
invite retaliation.
 A5-38: I firmly believe that if the inmates would have played their cards right, Aramark
would be gone by now. All the things that have happened, if they would have been filing
grievances left and right on everything that they complain to us about, Aramark would be
gone, and I tell them that constantly in the Chow Hall. They, ‘Well, what are you going to
do about this?’ I’m like, ‘What am I going to do about it? It was shoved down my throat
the same way it was shoved down your throat. I and my union have been trying to block
it. They couldn’t do it. You guys have the power. Fill out your grievances. You’d grieve
me when I was in housing. You’d grieve me because I wouldn’t give you toilet paper or
soap. These guys are cutting your food in half… you, watering it down, everything
you’re complaining to me about is a grievable issue. Go back and fill out a grievance.’
They don’t.


B5-39: I agree with the both of those statements, but also you know, well at _____, those
guys write grievances about the food, about their portions, about their carrier count,
about everything they do. They go to the Warden’s formal meetings and I see some the
questions that they ask the Warden, and the Warden directs them to the Director or the
Assistant Director that attends the meeting, and they spin the guys with a, ‘Our Regional
Officer,’ this, this, and that, ‘and we’re getting you guys the necessary count of calories,’
but when the inmates are writing these grievances at the same time, they got cable TV,
and they hear about how the Director or the Assistant Director, when they tell you every
time Aramark was supposed to run out of food, they were supposed to be fined.
 T2-6: We always talk about Lansing, like that’s the man that’s the guy that’s working
with Aramark, but our facility administrators are a part of that system. And sometimes of
what they don’t want, is to be made to look bad, so anything that’s going to make them
look bad they want to squash that. So if there’s a chance an employee might be doing
something to make them look bad, they don’t want, they’re going to try and control
S2-6: Potential liability….
 BN2-23: We have a shift commander who expressed his concerns about this whole
Aramark deal, the safety, the issues going on. He sent it to, apparently to all the right
people in Lansing because they immediately wanted him fired. They had contacted our
warden then they claim that she saved his job and was able to keep him on, but they
wanted that shift commander fired immediately for expressing his concerns about safety
and the issues going on with Aramark.
T2-24 That’s that pressure I’m talking about. Now the administration is part of that
BN2-24: They did not want to hear what his concerns were. Bottom line is, just make this
thing work.
S2-24: Yep.
BN2-24: And when he came, when he went to the right people to voice his concerns
about…..I mean he’s a captain…..just instantly they want him fired.


6. Interpretation and Discussion
This final section syllogizes the themes to provide a summary overview of the consequences of
prison food service privatization.
6.1 Negative Reciprocating Effects
Privatization was embarked upon to reduce MDOC operational costs. Cost pressure and profit
motive induced the contractor to reduce FSL compensation. Perceptions vary, but COs testify
that salary was cut by roughly 50 percent, and key benefits such as pensions were eliminated.
These changes undermined the professional status of FSLs, and very few former State workers
transitioned over as Aramark employees. Instead, displaced State workers applied for jobs as
COs, retired, or sought employment elsewhere.
With the exodus of State employees, Aramark had to plumb regional labor markets for personnel
to fill the FSL role. Given the modest compensation, this task was challenging. New recruits
typically lacked skills in institutional food operations, and few had the equanimity and maturity to
work in a prison environment. Some Aramark recruits had promise, but these persons would
often voluntarily resign after coming to the realization that their pay was incommensurate with
the risks and responsibility of the FSL position.
Aramark had little choice but to recruit under-qualified employees, many of whom committed
violations of prison protocol and were released from duty (stop ordered) by prison wardens. A
common violation was over-familiarity; yet criminal acts such as drug smuggling also occurred.
Contractor response to turnover was to accelerate recruitment by misrepresenting the nature of
the work to job applicants, relaxing the vetting criteria, and neglecting training. Recruitment
costs for the contractor escalated, and for the MDOC, the FSL staffing for the kitchen became
irregular and undependable.
Upon arrival, inexperienced contractor recruits would understandably turn to inmates working in
the kitchen for operational advice. Inmates befriended these contractor employees, and often
manipulated persons into performing sex or trafficking contraband. An alliance against the COs
developed between inmates and contractor employees, which led to conflict over the staffing of
inmate labor and access to kitchen and food storage areas. Contractor FSLs wanted the discretion
and flexibility to choose inmate labor. The COs had a keener understanding of inmate behavior
and prison protocol, and would object to inmate assignments for security purposes.
Kitchens also became contested, but for different reasons. Tasked with safeguarding custody and
security, COs demanded access to kitchen and storage areas in order to monitor inmates and
contractor staff. Contractor employees would obstruct, even to the point of placing new locks on
storage doors, out of the suspicion that COs were stealing food to sabotage contractor efforts.
Theft did escalate because inmates were able to capitalize on the naiveté of contractor FSLs to
smuggle food and weapon material (e.g. can lids) out of the kitchen and into the general inmate
population. A market for these types of contraband expanded, especially for food, as food quality
and quantity in the chow hall worsened. Under the trusting gaze of contractor staff, inmates
gained access to the food storage areas, purloined food stock, and entrepreneurially marketed
contraband to the inmate population. Ground beef and concentrated fruit juice were especially
prized; the latter of expanded the availability of ethyl alcohol. As per the service contract terms,
food theft was a cost borne by the contractor, further exerting pressure on the contractor to reduce
meal costs through shortages, substitutions and inferior fare.


The contractor response was to intensify tactics to reduce food expenses, all of which imposed
added costs on the prison system. Progressive cooking was a type of planned food shortage that
enabled the contractor to dish out smaller portions and substitute with less-expensive fare. Other
cost-cutting measures included allowing inmates to choose food items, and to neglect sanitation
and safe food handling protocol. These practices disrupted the prison schedule, fomented inmate
frustration, and contributed to inmate illness.
Meanwhile, kitchen assignments rose in value. Inmates working in the kitchen ate better than
others and had opportunities to flirt with the female contractor staff. Inmates that successfully
stole food were able to supplement their prison incomes. In the very least, inmates in the food
serving line could reward friends by giving them larger portions of food. At some locations the
kitchens became infiltrated by gangs that controlled access and collected tribute. Thus, the deprofessionalization of the FSL position created an authoritative vacuum in the kitchen that was
readily filled by guileful and powerful inmates.
In sum, a series of negative reciprocating effects emerged. Stingy contract terms coupled with
the quest for profit incentivized Aramark to reduce compensation and food expenses; inmates
responded to food scarcity and contractor employee inexperience by gaining influence over the
kitchen to steal food and kitchen items for the burgeoning market for contraband; contractor
employees treated the job as a temporary assignment, rather than a career, and leave voluntarily
or engaged in behavior to supplement their modest incomes, such as contraband smuggling; the
MDOC personnel issued stop orders against contractor employees that are caught violating prison
rules; food theft and employee turnover cut deeper into Aramark profits, further incentivizing
Aramark to hold down labor costs and compromise on food quality and quantity, and so on.
6.2 Limitations of the Service Contract
Food provision is indelibly joined with custody and security. The critical conceptual mistake in
this venture was in thinking that food responsibility could be delegated to a third party without
affecting the MDOC mission. Contract language might have obligated Aramark (now Trinity) to
be concerned with security, but mere words could not compensate for the loss of knowledge and
experience that accompanied the de-professionalization of the FSLs. Far too many details of
prison food operation that relate to security go undetected by the untrained eye, and contractor
employees simply lack the skill and experience. Thus, from a practical standpoint, the contract
language pertaining to the security obligations was unenforceable, and ultimately disregarded by
mid-level MDOC supervisors.
The loss of security coupled with food scarcity heightened risks for all actors. The COs observed
strong inmates take food from the weak in the chow hall. Inmates working in the kitchen would
be blamed by others for the poor food quality and small portions. In some cases, kitchen inmates
were coerced into stealing food. Food shortages typically affected the last meal shifts, triggering
protests amongst inmates classified as the most dangerous. Inmates would direct their frustration
toward other inmates, COs, and contractor personnel.
The COs in the kitchen and chow hall areas all described higher stress levels in their effort to
safeguard inmates, contractor personnel, and themselves. Few expressed confidence in the ability
of contractor employees to assist with custody and security. Not a single CO gave an example
where a contract employee assisted in dealing with an inmate dispute. Rather, much of the added
job stress on COs was due to the new task of observing contractor employees for either prison
violations or lapses in safety protocol. Other sources of stress include: increased inmate conflict


de-escalation over food (e.g. shortages), the proliferation of contraband (e.g. juice concentrate for
alcohol, weapon material), inadequate safety procedures (e.g. unsecured areas and tools), and
disputes with contractor personnel (e.g. inmate assignments).
Some COs attempted to educate contractor employees on security hazards, but these efforts were
ad hoc and often rebuffed. Consequently, a larger burden for maintaining security fell upon the
shoulders of COs stationed in the chow hall area. When a food operation functions properly, the
COs in the chow hall can concentrate on inmate behavior, staying alert for patterned interactions
or power relations among individuals or groups. A critical CO role is to anticipate and defuse
inmate conflict, which requires COs to focus on inmates.
With privatization, CO attention was diverted toward new tasks. Increased frequency of rounds
through the kitchen area pulled COs away from the chow hall station. Food portion control was
previously monitored by State FSLs to enforce standard meals for inmates. Insufficient oversight
by the contractor allowed the inmates to hand out extra food, usually as a form of payment. The
COs, out of concern for safety, absorbed this role.
Other tasks distracted COs from inmate monitoring. Meal counts became a recurring point of
disagreement between the MDOC and Aramark, which drew in COs involvement. Just prior to
privatization the MDOC installed the electronic, card swipe OMNI system to tally inmate entry
into the chow hall, and the COs had to administer the OMNI throughput. Accurate ONMI counts
require that the card swipes register, which did not always happen. Moreover, the OMNI systems
occasionally went down, interrupting the flow of inmates into the hall and disrupting the prison
schedule. What elevated the importance of this task was the fact that Aramark was paid on a per
meal basis, and discrepancies between the OMNI system and tray counts had to be reconciled.
Even more fundamental was food provision itself. Inmate protests over food shortages, meal shift
backups, food substitutions and poor quality fare required CO intervention. When a CO has to
de-escalate tension in one area of the chow hall it distracts from other areas. Protests and inmate
incidents requires COs to administer disciplinary action, which took time away from observation.
On some occasions the contractor employees failed to show up for duty, which forced the COs to
step in and supervise the kitchen. Inmates must be fed.
Food is an essential good, which make kitchens areas of power sought after by inmate factions.
In every facility, at question is the extent that inmates are in control. In some Michigan facilities,
inmates determine staffing for prized kitchen jobs. Further, by controlling the exchange of food
at the serving line, inmates can use food portions as payment. Access to food stock and other
kitchen items provide opportunities for theft, which have increased due to lax policing. From the
MDOC perspective, arguably the most consequential effect of privatization is the loss of control
over the kitchens to inmates, in some cases to gangs.
In relinquishing control to inmates, privatization has invited an authoritative structure that,
paradoxically, has muted inmate dissent over the unjust distribution of food and poor quality fare.
Collective protests so far have been contained, in part because inmates within the kitchens are
benefiting from the arrangement, as are inmates in the general population with sufficient power to
claim a share of the bounty. In short, gangs might be preventing full-scale riots over food.
6.3 Hidden and Not-So-Hidden Costs
As introduced, the question of whether privatizing food service was good for Michigan was in
doubt from the start, largely because tens of millions of dollars in food and supplies were to be


imported from out-of-state businesses. Instead, the case for privatization was based on the claim
that the policy would improve the MDOCs budget. At this juncture it is uncertain if even this
narrower objective was met.
A 2015, Auditor General Report displayed preliminary daily figures of $144,998 for Trinity
(projected) versus $198,368 for State-Operated, for an annual difference of $19.5 million. 34
Incredulously, the projected annual savings through Trinity are to exceed the amount originally
projected from the less-expensive Aramark ($16.4 million annually).
What invalidates the AG estimate is the absence of any adjustment for the substance of the
service. In 2013, the State-operated system relied on 371 FSL FTE. These personnel received
training in both institutional food operations and correction policy and procedure. It is unlikely
that Trinity commits 371 FTE staff,35 and near certain that the Trinity personnel do not match the
qualifications of former State employees. 36 Moreover, the AG figures do not adjust for changes
to the purchasing policy that originally skewed the comparison against State operations.
Some operational cost reductions were merely transferred from food service to another prison
function. In 2013, the MDOC facilities ran an evening shift for cleaning, food preparation and
baking. After privatization, the decline in kitchen sanitary conditions prompted some facilities to
re-establish an evening cleaning crew. These crews are supervised by a CO, not a contracted
FSL, and expensed from another MDOC line item.
Other costs expanded because of privatization. Prison infractions meant more inmate discipline,
including solitary confinement, requiring a higher CO to inmate ratio. Some related costs defy
quantification. Hard to price, for instance, are the psychological effects on inmates, extensions to
sentencing, and loss of justice.
Returning to a State-operated system could yield operational efficiencies. For instance, prior to
privatization, the MDOC had a low-tech, yet efficient method of counting meals; inmates filed
into the chow hall in shifts, and COs counted occupied seats. Meal counts were then reported to
State FSLs for planning purposes. The OMNI system that replaced this method slowed the line,
suffered breakdowns and consumed CO attention. By returning to a State-operated system the
MDOC could scrap OMNI and save on associated costs. Doing the same under privatization is
difficult because a verifiable form of accounting is needed to ensure that the contractor is not
inflating meal count numbers.

A refined comparison is recommended that matches labor and non-labor inputs, imposes
identical operational constraints on the parties, and holds providers accountable for high
performance standards. Consideration is due to the “intangible and unknown issues” or
“hidden costs,” brought to light by officer testimony. A return to normalcy would entail
the re-professionalization of the FSL position. Once accomplished, an objective review
will likely conclude that it is within reach of the MDOC to return food services to State
operation and suffer little or no budgetary harm.


AOG, 2015. Prisoner Food Services, Department of Corrections. State of Michigan Auditor General,
Lansing MI, December. See page 7 for weekly expenditure estimates.

The service contract with Trinity did not specify the staffing levels.


The COs reported that Trinity hired a large share of the former Aramark employees.


Appendix A: Aramark Contract Language
1.021 In Scope (p. 17):
A. Provide food service to all MDOC prisoners and staff at all facilities, serving three meals a
day, seven days a week, including any special diets/needs, confinement/infirmary meals, religious
meals, emergency meals, special event meals, snacks, sack meals and staff/guest meals: as well as
any other meals authorized by the CCI, warden or their designee.
B. Purchase and receive all food supplies necessary to meet the needs of this Contract.
C. Follow the Statewide Standard Menu (SWSU) as provided.
D. Maintain proper sanitation for the food service operations at all facilities, including the
cleaning and operation of all food service equipment.
E. Purchase and maintain all non-food supplies necessary to meet the needs of this Contract.
F. Invoice only the daily count of actual meals served at each institution and NOT the daily
population count.
G. Provide security in the kitchen and be trained by MDOC in institutional security.
Security (p.25):



Perform call outs· Contractor must verify the inmate workers assigned to the kitchen have
reported for duty and communicate that information to the agency point of contact on a daily
Provide accurate prisoner count on regular and routine basis and report those counts to the
facility point of contact.
Must be first responder for medical emergencies in the kitchen. The Contractor must provide
basic first aid to inmate with minor injuries and must notify medical staff. In more severe
medical emergencies, the Contractor must immediately notify medical staff to provide
Must be first responder for facility emergencies -the Contractor must follow MOOC policies
and procedures with regard to emergency communication and evacuation protocol for this
requirement. In the care of a major disturbance, the Contractor must implement its emergency
response plan.
Respond to prisoner grievances consistent with MOOC policy as directed by MOOC policies
and procedures
Write prisoner disciplinary reports consistent with MDOC process (Class I, II, III) and submit
them to the agency point of contact.
Perform shakedown/pat search of prisoners or work areas on a regular routine basis in the
presence of a MDOC Correctional Officer.
Provide any required reports regarding kitchen area functions and responsibilities.
Complete prisoner work performance reports and submit them to the agency point of contact.
Assist MOOC during all emergencies or mobilizations.


“The Contractor staff must maintain security of all sharps and caustic chemicals, as well as all
inventories in accordance with MOOC policy. All sharps and cleaning items must be logged In
and out…”
“The Contractor staff must keep all areas locked and unavailable to prisoner workers. All keys
must be secured in the facility key watcher at the end of each work day.”
Sanitation (p. 26):
“The Contractor must maintain sanitation in the food service operations, including employee and
prisoner workers' personal hygiene; at least one employee must have a current Manager
Certification Certificate from an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved
certification program (ServSafe or National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and must be on-site at
all times.”