A report from the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy found that privatization of prison food services led to an increase in inmate theft, trafficking, and gang activity.
Ottawa (23 May 2019) — The Detroit Free Press is reporting that since the State of Michigan ended the privatization of prison food services, the quality of the service has improved dramatically. Problems like staff engaging in illegal activity or delays in meals are a fraction of what they were when prison food services were privatized. At the same time staffing levels are up and staff turnover is down.
Privatization led to problems with safety and food quality
After Michigan privatized prison food services in 2013 a number of serious problems emerged.
Private contractors cut corners on staffing and wages to reduce costs. Inadequate staffing and poor training led to problems like knives being left lying around or doors left unlocked. It also led to a dramatic increase in the number of food services staff who were barred from Michigan prisons due to things like smuggling contraband, including drugs, and over-familiarity with inmates.
Food quality was also an issue. As Progress Michigan, a progressive group formed to hold public officials and government accountable, revealed that among the problems were contractors serving food infested with maggots or food that had been contaminated by rats.
These problems affect the safey of correctional workers as well as inmates. Issues with food quality in Michigan were linked to one riot and serveral protests. A report from the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy found that privatization of prison food services led to an increase in inmate theft, trafficking, and gang activity.
Problems the same under two different contractors
When problems occur with privatization, the privatization industry likes to dismiss the problems as an isolated example due to a particular operator. But the experience with privatization of food services at Michigan prisons undermines that argument. Two different contractors were involved during the 5 years in which prison food services were privatized. With both contractors, food quality, safety, and staffing were issues. It wasn’t until food services were brought back under public control that the situation improved.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE