COLUMBUS, OH – Today, the ACLU of Ohio called on the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) to reexamine the privatization of state prison food services. The request comes amid news that ODRC has fined private food contractor Aramark over $142,000 for “falling short of quality levels” and creating “unfortunate operational challenges” in Ohio prisons.
Aramark has previously faced problems in other states, including Florida and Michigan, where the company was recently fined nearly $100,000 for meal shortages and improper contact with inmates. 51 employees have been banned from Michigan state prisons for “overfamiliarity” issues.
“Privatizing prison food services uses same faulty logic and leads to the same poor conditions as privatizing whole prisons,” said ACLU Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner. “Corporations that rely on prisoners for revenue have a vested financial interest in ensuring services remain sparse to maximize profit.”
In 2011, Ohio leaders made the disastrous decision to become the first state in the nation to sell a prison to a private company. In 2013, they privatized prison food service as well. At the time, critical prison employees pointed out a failed two-year food privatization experiment at the Noble Correctional Institution. This experiment was abandoned in 2000 because of budget overruns and poor food quality.
“It is time for state leaders to recognize that these privatization schemes are bad for Ohio,” said Brickner. “They have been sold as a way to help states with short-term budget problems, but they do long-term damage. This is especially true in prisons, where cutting corners can be dangerous.”