Plans by the Kasich administration to privatize food service and other functions at facilities operated by the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) and Department of Youth Services (DYS) could eliminate nearly 500 state jobs this year.
- Privatization of Food Service at DRC – 400 jobs
- Privatization of DRC Warehouse at each Institution – 36 jobs
- Privatization of Corrections Medical Center Laboratory – 12 jobs
- Privatization of Food Service at DYS – 60 jobs
The Kasich administration claims the privatization effort could save over $16 Million a year, but if previous experiences with privatizing food service at state prisons are any indication, fraud, over payments and safety concerns might be a likely outcome.
In 2001, DRC put out a bid to privatize food service at the Noble Correctional Institution. The lowest bidder, Aramark, was hired. According to an audit conducted by then-State Auditor Jim Petro, Aramark failed multiple sanitary inspections and was unable to provide acceptable portion sizes as agreed upon in the contract. Aramark ended up billing the state for millions of meals it never actually served resulting in $2 Million in over payments being made to the company.
Kasich’s Director of the DRC Gary Mohr was a Deputy Director at the time and participated in Petro’s audit.
Food service was turned back over to OSCSEA members at a cost savings to the state.
Kentucky had a similar experience with Aramark when it contracted with the company for all of its prison food service. That state conducted an audit of Aramark after a prison riot occurred. The riot was sparked, in part, by “poor sanitation and pest control” in the prison kitchens, “poor food quality, inadequate food quantity and reports of large scale food-related illness outbreaks.”
Like Ohio, Kentucky found Aramark had not fulfilled its contractual obligations to the state and the state had made over payments to the company.
Recent privatization experiments at Ohio’s prisons have also gone poorly.
Last year Kasich sold off the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America. Gary Mohr was employed by CCA between his stints at DRC. The prison sale has been an unmitigated disaster with increased drug use, increased criminal activity and increased cost to local government. When a fight broke out at the prison last month, special response units from state-owned prisons had to be called to transport the inmates to state-owned facilities.