Last year, Aramark Correctional Services, a private food company that fed inmates trash, rodent saliva, and unrefrigerated meat was axed from Michigan prisons because of budgetary concerns. But nine months after Aramark got the boot, a March strike that began in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is spreading across the state — and the quality and amount of food given to prisoners is at the heart of it. Early this week, inmates at a facility in Jackson joined the protest of Trinity Services Group, the replacement food vendor.
The Cotton Correctional Facility was the third to join the strike and hundreds of miles from where the protest first began at the Kinross Correctional Facility. Back in March, roughly 1,000 Kinross prisoners rejected their meals, citing problems with their meals — including watery food. According to a representative from the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), the warden immediately met with Trinity staff to address concerns about food preparation. Days later, a similar strike broke out at the Chippewa Correctional Facility, where Kinross inmates are generally sent for disciplinary reasons.
MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz said the third strike at Cotton died down on Tuesday, but a second spokesperson has lingering concerns about the protest.
“Absolutely, we’re still concerned — it’s been spreading,” Anita Lloyd told the Detroit Free Press. She also noted that prison administrators have been asked to address “ongoing problems,” adding, “something more has got to be done.”
MDOC announced its break from Aramark last summer, and Trinity assumed its role — under a three-year, $158.8 million contract soon after. But the switch wasn’t made due to concerns for inmate health. The three-year contract with Aramark was cut short after a billing dispute between the vendor and MDOC.
While Aramark’s reputation for providing inhumane service — such as serving limited and tainted food — is well documented, Trinity also has a history of problems. Like its predecessor in Michigan, Trinity underfed inmates in Georgia to the point that one person resorted to eating toothpaste and a second man trembled in a cell from hunger.
Lingering concerns among Michigan prisoners have to do with the privatization of prison food services nationwide. Companies like Trinity and Aramark, which are concern with their bottom lines, are unwilling to shell out money for enough food and maintain fully-staffed, clean kitchens.