Lawmakers in Lansing are exploring a complete overhaul of how the state feeds its prisoners.
Gov. Rick Snyder wants to stop outsourcing food service vendors and bring the system “in house.” His budget proposal would return prison food service to the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Snyder and the Republican-led Legislature privatized prison food in 2012. Since then, there have been reports of maggots in food, inappropriate relationships between contract employees and inmates, and other problems.
In 2015, the state cancelled its contract with food service contractor Aramark due to problems with the service. The state has continued to see problems under its current food provider Trinity Services Group.
Despite those problems, some Republicans in the Legislature seem skeptical about ending privatizated prison food and returning those jobs to civil servants. This week, the administration had to defend its plan in front of lawmakers as they held budget hearings.
During one meeting, Sen. John Proos (R-St. Joseph), who chairs the subcommittee that sets the Senate’s corrections budget priorities, questioned whether the department has the resources to handle food services oversight. He says the food service industry has a high turnover rate and the department might have trouble keeping employees.
Kyle Kaminski with the Michigan Department of Corrections says these are civil service jobs and that makes them more desirable than regular food service jobs.
“We have individuals who are wardens who started out in our kitchens,” said Kaminski.
He said food is an integral part of running an efficient prison.
“Food helps drive our operations, it helps drive the morale of our prisoner population and so it’s very important to us that we’re consistently delivering on what we’re trying to do in this area of our operations.”
WDET’s Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk about the controversy over prison food here in Michigan.
Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.