House Democratic representatives today sent a letter to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) Director Gary Mohr calling for the state to terminate its contract with the state’s privately-run prison food service staffing company, Aramark, marking at least the fifth time lawmakers have asked the state to take control of privatized food service operations.
“The irrefutable and troubling facts against Aramark reaffirms why there was such strong initial opposition, both in the legislature and the general public, to privatizing any part of our prison system,” said Rep. Matt Lundy (D-Elyria). “With the ninety-day notice requirement in the contract, I am calling on the administration to terminate its relationship with Aramark and start 2015 off on the right foot by having the state take full control of our prisons again.”
Over 100 Aramark employees have been banned from Ohio prisons since the first year of the privatization due to problems ranging from sexual abuse and drug smuggling to inappropriate relationships with inmates, according to a Dayton Daily News investigation. Aramark has also racked up state contract violations, including unsafe food conditions, staffing shortfalls and food shortages.
“Maybe they cut costs, but they cut corners to get there and that’s not what Ohioans deserve or expect,” said Rep. Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) a member of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC). “It’s time for the state to take control of operations at our state prisons and ensure that there is security and accountability in the way our state does business.”
Aramark has been fined twice by the state for violating safety and security requirements at Ohio prisons, but the Kasich Administration has dodged previous calls for the termination of Aramark’s contract. Instead, the state will use some of the fines to hold additional training for Aramark employees.
“We shouldn’t be in the business of remediation for bad actors,” said Rep. Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma), a CIIC member. “The state needs to sign contracts with businesses that are able to meet our requirements and expectations.”