Another Aramark?Shades of Aramark?
Could this be another case of the state using the private sector to do prison work when the track record of the company in question is in question?
The Aramark private food vendor has produced plenty of headlines over the past six months by allegedly providing lousy food, sex with inmates in the food freezers and a host of other beefs.
Enter the GEO Group, a private prison company which operates some 85,000 beds around the country and it wants to add Michigan to its roster. A bill would hire the Florida firm to reopen the moth-balled so-called Punk Prison in Baldwin.
Opened under the Engler administration as an experiment in rehabilitating the toughest of the juvenile delinquents, the experiment was a flop.
Rep. Jon Bumstead from up there is hoping to convince his colleagues to give it another go by allowing GEO to bring in convicts from other states.
Union lobbyist Nick Ciaramitaro has seen this movie before. AFSCME opposed Aramark and it opposes GEO.
"The corporation has a long track record of abuse, understaffing, and their staff there is under trained. That puts prisoners at risk; that puts employees at risk; and that puts the community surrounding the prison at risk," he laments.
The company website contends it produces high quality at cost-effective prices. Tell that to a federal judge who ruled the GEO prison in Mississippi was a "cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions." The Mississipians canceled the deal.
Bumstead is sanguine about the whole thing. "I think a lot of it is unfounded," he contends regarding the company's track record." He observes, "housing bad people, they do bad things."
Mr. Ciaramitaro is also worried about the company eventually siphoning off Michigan inmates into the facility in order to fatten the firm's bottom line if it can't make a buck off the crooks from other states.
What appeared to be a fast track effort has been slowed down to a crawl in the Senate, where some have raised concerns about the possible "warehousing" of inmates and whether they are given rehab services. That from Sen. Patrick Colebeck, R-Plymouth.
GEO is no stranger to Michigan as it ran the original punk prison and various state agencies concluded it was more expensive than many of the other facilities and by closing it, the state would save over $7 million. The company complained the auditor general's report was "skewed." It was finally shuttered but GEO is back for another bite of the prison apple which some folks feel is poisoned.