Officials mull decision on Michigan's prison food contract

After food shortages, maggots and high turnover, Gov. Rick Snyder is being pushed to terminate Aramark's contract.

LANSING, Mich.—Michigan's beleaguered prison food contractor should find out in the next two weeks whether it will be subject to more penalties or even dismissal after its first eight months were marred by food shortages, kitchen maggots and high turnover as employees were caught smuggling contraband and engaging in sex acts with inmates.

Many Democrats and a few Republican lawmakers are urging Gov. Rick Snyder to terminate Aramark Correctional Service's contract and return state employees to the kitchens, saying safety and security must take precedence over estimated contract savings of about $16 million a year.

Smuggling and fraternization could endanger prison staff, and problems with food quantity and quality — including maggots found around food in at least two Michigan prisons — have raised inmate tension levels.

The Aramark problems were documented in a series of exclusive reports in the Free Press, some of which were based on more than 3,000 pages of Corrections Department records obtained under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act.

"Something different has to happen," said Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. "My concern right now is not so much the money, as the safety."

But others say the problems with Aramark are overblown. And at least one key Republican lawmaker said Friday the administration should not be pressured by negative media stories into canceling the Aramark deal.

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