Michigan Department of Corrections and Trinity Services Group mutually agree to end contract

LANSING — The Michigan Department of Corrections will return to state-run food service operations this summer after coming to a mutual agreement with Trinity Services Group to end the partnership when the contract expires.

The change, which would bring about 350 state workers back to correctional facility kitchens, was announced in Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget recommendation presentation today.

“As the contract with Trinity was approaching its end, we took the opportunity to re-examine our operations,” Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington said. “After discussing options with Trinity, it was determined it was in the best interest of both parties not to renew our agreement. We believe the department’s needs would be better met by returning to state-run food service.”

While food service contracts achieved savings for taxpayers, the MDOC determined that continued challenges with staffing vacancies, turnover, compliance with performance expectations, and a recent request by Trinity for additional funding, warranted a return to state-run operations.

The department’s previous contract with Aramark started in December 2013 and ended in 2015.

About 320 Trinity food service workers are currently employed at Michigan correctional facility kitchens. The department’s contract with Trinity Services Group expires July 31, 2018. Company leaders and the department agreed to end the partnership following discussions on Tuesday.

Budget language first approved in 2012 required the open bidding of food service operations to reduce correctional costs. The boilerplate language requiring the open bidding of food service is no longer in place, but the change would still require the Legislature to appropriate sufficient funds for these operations moving forward.

The Michigan Department of Corrections released the following statement:

MCO members and leaders had voiced serious safety concerns about Trinity and Aramark throughout their contracts. These concerns led MCO to start a national conversation with other corrections administrators and unions. Poor food quality and quantity has created problems in prisons around the country.

MCO members never backed off from our security concerns around food service changes. We frequently discussed it with legislators, the media, and MDOC administrators. Members banded together on this issue and spoke with one voice. This shows our advocacy and persistence can lead to positive safety changes when we work together.

There are many unanswered questions about this transition back to state workers. When we have concrete details, we will share them with members. MCO believes that when it comes to custody, security, and safety, front-line staff are a resource and should be included in the conversation.

Corrections is changing around the U.S. Innovations and new technologies are unveiled every day. As corrections officers and professionals, we should embrace these changes and point out where they work and where they don’t. Nationwide, we hope corrections administrators will invite more frontline staff and their unions to the table to help think through the possible solutions.”