LANSING – State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) wrote an open letter today to Acting State Personnel Director Janet McClelland calling for an end to food service privatization in Michigan prisons. Dianda worked across the aisle to get the signatures of 13 other state representatives and three senators attached to the letter, which had bipartisan support.
On Sept. 18, stakeholders from across the correctional services industry testified before the Michigan Civil Service Commission against administration plans to outsource prison food services. In his letter, Dianda highlighted the evidence presented.
“The testimony and evidence submitted to the commission in September demonstrated that it would cost the state of Michigan more to outsource food services in our state prisons than it would to keep the services local,” said Dianda. “The Department of Corrections (DOC) was mistaken when they alleged that privatizing these services would save the state any money.”
Current in-state DOC vendors testified that outsourcing food provisions to out-of-state vendors would have devastating effects on their businesses and on Michigan’s economy as a whole, while correctional officers and managerial staff raised concerns that the proposed change would lead to violence. In addition to those concerns, legislators raised bicameral and bipartisan concerns about the manner in which the bidding process was handled.
Less than 24 hours after the extensive testimony and evidence was delivered, the governor announced that he intended to expedite the outsourcing of prison food services. Along with this announcement, the governor has said he wants not only to negotiate a contract with the private food service company Aramak, but to get that contract approved, signed and implemented before Dec.1 − before the next meeting of the Civil Service Commission.
“The decision to outsource food services will lead to the elimination of classified positions and the subsequent layoff and bumping of hundreds of employees of varying seniority,” Dianda said. “I therefore urge Ms. McClelland to stay any further action that involves implementing the Aramak contract in order to allow a full review provided by civil service rule and the state constitution.”
The issue affects downstate and Upper Peninsula correctional facilities.