Michigan Will Save $12M By Feeding Inmates Maggots, Rat-Nibbled Cake, Says GOP Governor (VIDEO)

Emails obtained by Think Progress show that an employee at Michigan’s privatized prison food service supplier, Aramark, ordered a prison worker to serve cake “which rodents were observed eating from.”

According to the emails, the Aramark employee, identified as “Aramark employee Ellsworth” ordered a prison worker to stop throwing away cake that had visible signs of rodent infestation. Ellsworth then ordered the prisoner to “cut the sides off the cake and serve it to the population.”

Here’s a photo of emails between Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) employees, who were initially notified of the ‘rat cake’ incident, in July of 2014.

Image credit: screen capture, emails obtained by Think Progress, published http://media.mlive.com/lansing-news/other/Aramark%20Cake%20Emails.pdf

Image credit: screen capture, emails obtained by Think Progress, published by mlive.com at http://media.mlive.com/lansing-news/other/Aramark%20Cake%20Emails.pdf

According to CBS Detroit, this incident took place at the Central Michigan Correctional Facility.

In July of last year, at least 30 prisoners at Parnell Corrections Facility in Jackson, Michigan were treated for food poisoning symptoms. The inmates reported diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and headache. The symptoms occurred in conjunction with the discovery of maggots and fly larvae on the food service line at the facility.

Less than a week later, maggots were found in the food at another Jackson, Michigan prison, this time the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center.

In October of last year, an Aramark worker was caught taking food out of the trash and serving it to inmates.

In September, a prisoner at the Baraga Correctional Facility in Grand Rapids filed suit against Aramark for serving bad food at that facility. According to the suit, Aramark falsified menus, substituting what the company claimed to be serving, with food that was not fit for consumption.

On the menu – Meatballs, gravy, noodles, bread, cooked carrots and cake or a cookie – didn’t match what was on the plate, which contained a green and spoiled hamburger patty, cold gravy, cold noodles with a vinegar odor, raw carrots, moldy bread and a green orange in place of dessert, the lawsuit claims. The milk was warm and past its expiration date.

The inmate is charging that Aramark’s use of unsanitary, expired and moldy food constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of his constitutional rights.

Aramark spokesmen claim that the corporation’s meals are planned by dietary experts and are designed to meet minimum calorie and nutrition requirements. Those familiar with the actual practices of the company dispute those claims.

In October of last year, a former Aramark food service worker filed a whistle-blower complaint against the corporation.

Amy McVay claims that she was fired after complaining about serious health and safety violations, which routinely take place in Aramark run food service kitchens.

During an interview with the Detroit Free Press, McVay brought forth a number of concerns, including:

McVay alleges she was harassed and retaliated against for complaining about a lack of temperature monitoring in cooking; the serving of raw or undercooked meat; falsified records related to dishwater temperature and cleaning solution quality; the serving of meat that had been dropped on the floor; changing the dates on stored leftover food so it could be served after its throw-away date; suspected inflating of the count of meals served — part of the basis for which Aramark is paid by the state — among other issues.

Here’s a video of McVay’s interview with the Detroit Free Press.

McVay is not alone in her complaints. Former Aramark food service worker Tiffany Ely told the Detroit Free Press that she quit working for the corporation ‘in disgust,’ in June of last year.

Ely said that the corporation’s practices were so bad at the Pugsley Correctional Facility in Kingsley, Michigan, where she worked, that:

“I was vomiting. I couldn’t take it anymore.”

According to the Detroit Free Press:

“Temperatures were not being taken of the food,” and false entries were put in a log that was supposed to record food temperatures, Ely said. She said she complained to managers on Jan. 14, March 12, April 21, April 29, June 11, and June 16, to no effect.

Although both women worked in different facilities, and in different parts of the state, their stories are eerily similar.

Kitchen workers use a strip of tape to test whether the dishwasher water is hot enough to clean properly, they said. If the water is hot enough, the tape turns black. Both McVay and Ely said the water was rarely if ever hot enough. Managers instructed them and other kitchen workers to use other methods to heat the tape until it turned black and then attach the strip of black tape to a kitchen report, as required, they said.

While McVay told the Detroit Free Press that:

“Aramark takes the strips and stick them on a steam table until it turns them black.”

Ely stated that, at the Pugsley Facility, the supervisor:

“. . . made us. . . heat up water separately or put it (the test strip) in the coffee pot.”

At least six Aramark employees were caught having sex with inmates in the food service area, between September and December, 2014.

The Lansing State Journal reports that, since December 2013, when right wing Governor Rick Snyder fired 370 state employees, replacing them with unqualified Aramark employees under a $145 million contract with the private company, a multitude of problems have arisen.

“Those problems include meal shortages and unauthorized menu substitutions which led to a $200,000 fine, incidents of sex acts between Aramark workers and inmates,smuggling of drugs and other contraband, prison unrest sparked by food complaints, sanitation issues, and a case in which an Aramark worker was fired on suspicion of trying to hire an inmate to kill another inmate.”

Following a very sketchy process, which began with an initial report showing no cost savings to taxpayers associated with privatizing Michigan prison food services, Governor Snyder approved a contract with Aramark in late 2013.

On September 28, Amy Kerr Harding of Michigan’s Democracy Tree reported that:

Republican lawmakers re-crunched the numbers to their own liking producing an outcome that favored Aramack over public workers.

In other words, they “cooked the books,” eventually coming up with a figure of between $12 and $14 million savings per year.

Prior to the privatization scheme, Michigan spent about $2 per day on food for inmates. In addition, many of the kitchen workers previously employed by the state doubled as prison guards, meaning they could perform both jobs at the same time. Because costs were already low and many employees worked both kitchen service and guards jobs, many have expressed doubt as to whether the Aramark contract was ever motivated by a desire to ‘save money’.

Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, is still pushing the fallacy of a $12 million savings to taxpayers, related to the Aramark contract.

CBS Detroit reports that:

The governor has defended the decision to stick with the food vendor, saying the state was on pace to save $14 million a year through privatization. He also absolved Aramark of responsibility for suspected food poisoning and maggot problems.

Under Aramark’s three-year contract, the corporation will provide food services to Michigan prisons at a cost that is five percent less than what the state was paying before.

Apparently it’s fine with Snyder if that savings is achieved by replacing trained employees with unqualified and unprofessional workers, and replacing clean, safe food, with maggot and rat infested food. Heck, we can even replace dishes and cookware in favor of food served out of trash cans, or off of filthy, dirty floors.

As the number of pending lawsuits against the Michigan Department of Corrections continues to grow it’s a given that any supposed ‘taxpayers savings’ will quickly be swallowed up by legal fees and judgement awards. There’s also the question of how much additional spending will be required to deal with prison riots and prisoner unrest, which is happening more and more often, as GOP-style privatization takes root across the country.

Just how many lawsuits are currently pending against the MDOC? That’s what Michael Morisy wanted to know. As of March 17, 2015, it will cost him $9,645.58 to find out.

To see a list of just some of the lawsuits currently pending against Aramark, visit the Aramark Rap Sheet page at privateci.org.

*Featured image via Wikipedia