‘Overwhelming Stench’: New Emails Highlight Continued Problems Under Outsourced Prison Food Contract

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

News from Progress Michigan

May 9, 2017

Contact: Sam Inglot, 616-916-0574, sam@progressmichigan.org

‘Overwhelming Stench’: New Emails Highlight Continued Problems Under Outsourced Prison Food Contract

After problems, millions in fines, Trinity contract must be cancelled 

MICHIGAN — On a summer day at Kinross Correctional Facility, inmates were told by Trinity food service workers to pick through “maggot infested potatoes” to salvage food that was then going to be served in the prison, according to documents obtained by Progress Michigan through the Freedom of Information Act. The rancid potato problem is yet another egregious example of how Michigan’s outsourced prison food service contract is failing to live up to Gov. Rick Snyder’s promises, is compromising safety of prisoners and staff, and should be cancelled.

According to a Michigan Department of Corrections Food Service Event Report obtained by Progress Michigan through FOIA, the prison staff on the scene described an “overwhelming stench” and heard reports of “yellowish/white liquid seeping from the bags” of potatoes.

The potato incident occurred on July 15, 2016. Less than two months later at the very same facility, a riot broke out where prisoner complaints about food were cited as an issue. The costs associated with the riot reached nearly $1 million, according to the Detroit Free Press.

As the Michigan Legislature irons out the state budget for the coming year, Progress Michigan is urging state elected officials to cancel the state’s contract with Trinity Services Group, a Florida-based company. Gov. Snyder’s attempt to privatize food service in state prisons has been riddled with problems since the beginning. Trinity is the second vendor to have the contract, but problems and fines have continued to ring up.

“Gov. Snyder and Republicans in the legislature have chosen to ignore these problems for too long and it’s time they cancelled the contract and returned prison food service to state employees,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “This is what happens when you have a bottom-line approach to governance that puts the interests and well-being of corporate donors over the needs of the public.”

In addition to the potato incident, Progress Michigan found an event report that depicted a situation where a “non-white” inmate was eating an apple and a Trinity employee said to him, “Why are you eating an apple, don’t you guys eat bananas?” The racially-charged remark led the kitchen to become “buzzing with tension” according to the report. The event reportedly occurred in March 2016. The employee was eventually fired.

The documents regarding the events listed above can be found here.

Progress Michigan obtained the documents through a FOIA request that was sent in August 17, 2016 and was fulfilled January 12, 2017.

Numerous media reports have chronicled a detailed account of Trinity’s failings — and the Snyder administration’s failed attempts to hold them accountable. A breakdown of some of those stories is below:

March 2016: Report reveals stories of poorly run, unclean kitchens in Michigan prisons

March 2016: Prisoners protest food under new contractor Trinity

May 2016: Food service worker fired at Michigan prison for drug allegation

January 2017: Prison food contractor hit with $2M in penalties

April 2017: Prison contractors ring up fines for poor service

“In 2015 Progress Michigan released a detailed report about the failings of Aramark and warned that the problems would persist because of the governing culture of the Snyder administration and the failed policy that is privatization of public services,” Scott continued. “Two years, more maggots and millions of dollars later, the administration has proven us right, it is past time to cancel the Trinity contract.”

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