Ohio to Privatize Inmate Meal Services

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has awarded a two-year contract to Philadelphia-based Aramark to provide meal services to the state’s 50,000 inmates.

Expected to save approximately $14 million annually during a time of a $60 million deficit, Aramark won the bid with a cost of $3.61 per inmate, per day.

“The department is able to meet its budget requirements while avoiding closing housing units and laying off security staff,” said JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the ODRC.

Faced with a mounting deficit as well as an increasing prison population, increases in workers comp rates, health insurance premiums and medical and drug expenses, the ODRC is looking to cut costs in every way possible.

By June 2015, Ohio may house as many as 52,100 inmates, according to the ODRC. The state’s inmate population continues to grow despite the state’s two-year focus to decrease the population.

The contract was awarded to Aramark through an evaluation process that scored on technical merits and cost. Aramark, Smith said, had the superior score when compared to competitors such as the Oldsmar, Fla.-based Trinity Services Group, which bid $3.74 per inmate, per day.

According to its website, Aramark Correctional Services (ACS) provides meal services for more than 600 correctional institutions throughout North America and prepares more than 1 million inmate meals each day.

“More than a food services provider, ACS endeavors to go beyond for its clients, delivering solutions to critical issues like recidivism, officer morale and retention, safety and security, and inmate behavior and health,” the ACS website says.

Aramark was unable to comment about its recent contract with the ODRC.

Of the 433 current state-employed food service workers in the department, 238 have already been transferred to different positions, primarily correctional officers, Smith said. The remainder has, “moved through natural attrition.”

“Placements will continue until Sept. 7 and the director has committed to exceeding the current table of organization for correction officers to enable placement of as many staff as possible,” Smith said. “Aramark has also established websites to collect applications from management and hourly staff. Aramark is required to give preferential hiring to any potentially displaced food service staff.”

The $110 million contract will begin Sept. 8 and run to June 30, 2015.