How Does the End of Aramark Private Food Services Affect Michigan Prisons?

How can Michigan hold prison service providers accountable for quality?

Stephen Henderson talks with Sasha Volokh, Associate Professor of Law at Emory University, about private prison services.  They talk about the abrupt end of Michigan’s contract with the private food service company Aramark, and the differences between public and private prison services:

  • Inspection: Volokh says that inspection is key to any quality food service, public or private.  He says that we do have objective standards that are applicable to food service because we inspect and evaluate restaurants for quality and safety.
  • Accountability and firing: Michigan changing services from Aramark is actually a success of the system, Volokh says, as it demonstrates that the state will fire and replace companies that do not reach a certain standard. He says that robust accountability can be more difficult to achieve using public or internal food services because there are more firing protections. 
  • Ancillary services: Volokh says that while privatizing prison guards or overall management can be more controversial, ancillary services such as food and custodial contractors are easier to manage. He notes that private ancillary services are not unique to prisons.
  • No broad advantage: While they have respective strengths and weaknesses, Volokh says neither public nor private prisons have an obvious net advantage over the other.
  • Uncertain savings: Volokh says there is no definitive conclusion about how much money private prisons save. He says they could save between 3 and 15% of total cost.

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.