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News from Progress Michigan
April 8, 2015
After Aramark Failures, Progress Michigan Questions Move to Privatize Prison Stores
Privatizing prison services has been a disaster in Michigan, but trend continues
LANSING — The decision to outsource more state prison service jobs to an out-of-state corporation shows that policymakers in Lansing have not learned from the failed privatization experiment that has been the state’s contract with Aramark.
Reports indicate that the state will cut dozens of prison store jobs in order to contract with Missouri-based Keefe Group, a for-profit corporation that has come under fire recently by those who say companies like this squeeze prisoners’ families for cash in order to provide services — while raking in massive profits. Prison stores handle things like cash transfers from families to prisoners and commissary items like food and toiletries.
According to reports and union officials, the prison store system as it currently stands is operating in the black, so it’s puzzling as to why the state would want to privatize the program in the first place, especially given the state’s poor track record with privatized prison services.
The effort comes on the heels of numerous problems with the state’s Aramark contract, which has been plagued with problems, includingserving food from the trash, serving food that had been gnawed on by rodents, drug smuggling, sexual contact with inmates and a botched murder-for-hire plot.
“You’d think the Aramark debacle would’ve taught lawmakers a lesson about doing business with out-of-state corporations that are only driven by profit,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “The fact that there are allegedly no cost savings to this move leaves me wondering what other motivation officials must have for continuing this failed privatization experiment.”