Mystery meat, bologna soup and maggots
July 16, 2015 4:51 AM   Subscribe

 
On the plus side, Aramark lost the contract in Michigan, in no small part due to coverage like this.

On the minus side, the contract will now go to Trinity (who was the only other bidder) for an extra $408K per year over Aramark's price, which will probably not result in significant upgrades.

I wish this would open a statewide dialogue about privatization and "Yellow Pages government "(20-page Reason PDF), but it's only prisoners, so I doubt it.
posted by Etrigan at 5:03 AM on July 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I have a friend involved in hospitality services* provided to Aramark global executives at high-level meetings and conferences. It's pretty fancy stuff -- made to order omelettes with fresh ingredients, finger sandwiches in infinite variations, herb stuffed chicken, glistening pastries for dessert, and so on. Often there's leftovers so they give it away to the technical and support crews before throwing what's left into a dumpster.

A switchem-changem of executive food with prison food would be entertaining to watch.

_________
* Yes, you read that right: Aramark leadership doesn't eat its own product (of any quality level). It uses third party catering.
posted by Construction Concern at 5:31 AM on July 16, 2015 [33 favorites]


I guess Aramark doesn't practice "eating their own dog food". Which is unfortunate because they seem to be one of the few companies that could literally eat their own dog food.
posted by sexymofo at 5:36 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wish this would open a statewide dialogue about privatization and "Yellow Pages government "(20-page Reason PDF), but it's only prisoners, so I doubt it.

It seems pretty simple, philosophically - for-profit companies aren't going to be very good at accomplishing tasks other than making profits. It's a national issue - hell, it's a global one, for that matter.
posted by ColdOfTheIsleOfMan at 5:41 AM on July 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Low bidders, maximizing shareholder profits, and no standards. What could go wrong?
posted by benzenedream at 5:44 AM on July 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Low bidders, maximizing shareholder profits, and no standards. What could go wrong?

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. /s

Seriously. For a good swath of the electorate this is a feature not a bug.
posted by Talez at 6:07 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


That Yellow Pages government pdf made me throw up in my mouth a little.
posted by Mogur at 6:13 AM on July 16, 2015


I should get my kid to write about the Aramark service at his elementary school. He refuses to touch the stuff.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:31 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


That Yellow Pages government pdf made me throw up in my mouth a little.

I think I know what you mean.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) currently own [sic] and operate [sic] 24 museums or historical locations, many without entrance fees.
This is presented as a problem to be solved. At least centuries ago when a stranger stumbled into your valley, you might cudgel him and share the few coins in his pocket; now the plan it to keep him alive and signing Visa slips.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:34 AM on July 16, 2015


The best jail food I was ever served was home-cooked turkey meatloaf in a little town outside of Waco, Texas. The second best was the next day at that same jail - a bag of Wendy's dollar menu items. I was vegetarian at the time but I also knew when not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

The worst? Cold, suspicious-smelling hot dogs at a major metro jail. No buns, no condiments, just a couple of room temperature nitrate bombs per inmate: "Our kitchen is closed for fumigating".
posted by item at 6:44 AM on July 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


"Henceforth it is ordered that the highest ranking administrator at any place of incarceration shall be obliged by law to eat at least one meal per day from the kitchen of that same institution. Said meal shall be required to be as similar as possible in quality and preparation as whatever food is furnished to the general population of inmates."

So ordered by Nerd of the North, Benevolent Despot and One Who is Getting Mighty Sick of This Kind of Shit.
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:15 AM on July 16, 2015 [29 favorites]


Let's just hope that nobody at Aramark ever watches Human Centipede 3.
posted by item at 7:20 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


the “Yellow Pages test” says that if a service can be found in the Yellow
Pages of a phone book, government should consider buying it rather than producing it in-house.


I see a listing for "clowns" in the phone book but I don't see congress outsourcing itself.
posted by benzenedream at 7:31 AM on July 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Holy shit, that is depressing. Fucking Aramark.
While anyone with a shred of foresight could've seen these problems a mile beyond the horizon, privatizing prison functions in Michigan is considered a great way to free up some budget dollars.
Re: Commissary, the source of ingredients for the "cookups" mentioned in the article. A friend of mine wrote that it is just an incredible rip-off:
I've read plenty of articles about the amount of for-profit private business wrapped up in our prison system, and you can really see signs of it here. Commissary is really expensive – worse than convenience store prices – and phone calls are priced like old-fashioned long distance systems even though they're handled by a VOIP system and probably cost pennies per call.

Worst of all, inmates here are actually charged $65 per day to be here. I won't have to pay that because I'm federal and they pick up that bill, but that's some Robocop-dystopia type shit right there. One guy I talked to who had stayed at a different jail said that teams of "investors" would regularly tour the place.
So, for Aramark and other private prison companies, it's not enough to just squeeze prisoners via regular every day dehumanizing substandard food. They also work the other end by taking more money via monopoly pricing.
posted by ignignokt at 7:52 AM on July 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


and phone calls are priced like old-fashioned long distance systems

If only. I got a $75 collect call charge from a Nevada prison that was was a wrong number that my voicemail picked up. I had to file a complaint with the state consumer protection dept. to get that taken off my bill.
posted by MikeMc at 8:01 AM on July 16, 2015 [5 favorites]




Commissary is really expensive – worse than convenience store prices

One of my sisters-in-law went through some substance abuse issues and was frequently incarcerated, she would occasionally call (collect, $3.50/minute) to ask my wife to put money on her commissary book. We would get forms to fill out where you could apply money to her account and/or purchase specific commissary items for her. The prices were, shall we say, eyebrow raising. Of course the burden of these inflated costs falls on the families of the inmates many, if not most, of who are poor. Way to turn a profit of other people's misery guys.
posted by MikeMc at 8:11 AM on July 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


This is a deplorable, immoral criminal racket and society should be ashamed of itself for treating anybody to such inhuman conditions. That it is acceptable & unremarkable is a massive stain on America's conscience.
posted by growabrain at 8:19 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


everytime i read about this sort of thing, i think about the idea of a penitentiary... you spend time alone contemplating and doing penance.

prisons have always been terrible (hello spanish inquisition), but our methods of incarceration seem to have gotten more, not less, barbaric.
or else just remain the same.

how is dehumanizing someone supposed to help them become a viable member of society? i wonder if sometimes people get confused about how imprisonment works. they see someone like John McCain who was a POW and suffered terribly and now lookie here at his bootstrappiness.

but he had money and support and all sorts of things to assist him on his return to the world.

we throw people in prison and take away every vestige of humanity and then throw them out again (sometimes) without any support whatsoever and think they'll just magically become John McCain.

oh, they say, but "those people" deserve to be treated like that. but why? how is it supposed to help? don't they deserve to be treated like humans because that's how you get someone to be human - treating like a living, breathing person with emotions and thoughts and stuff?

how is the way we treat prisoners supposed to help them not become prisoners once they leave prison? i really don't get it.
posted by sio42 at 8:51 AM on July 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


If only. I got a $75 collect call charge from a Nevada prison that was was a wrong number that my voicemail picked up.

I don't know why you would assume this means that the prisoner on the other end was not also being charged. Because it would be illegal to do so? lol
posted by poffin boffin at 9:00 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I assume that was in reference to the idea that prison phone charges are only as high as old-school long-distance price gouging.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:02 AM on July 16, 2015


Has anyone ever done a general poll on people's perceptions of whether prison is meant to rehabilitate or punish? Because I think that would give us a general indicator of whether this is a case of "evil corporations gonna evil" or "something has gone deeply wrong in society that needs to be addressed on a macro level".

If 20% of people think prison is a way of saying "hey, something has gone deeply wrong here, so why don't you get a forced time-out, education, training and counselling so that when the time-out is over you can play a functioning role in society," and 80% of people think prison is straight up "anyone who breaks a law is 10000% evil and deserves the very worst of everything, forever", I don't think the heart of the problem is Aramark.
posted by Shepherd at 9:09 AM on July 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


I don't know why you would assume this means that the prisoner on the other end was not also being charged. Because it would be illegal to do so? lol

It appears there have been some changes to this billion dollar industry. I "like" the fact that you have to set-up a prison phone account and you get charged $6.95 every time you add money to it. Nothing like having to pay a company money in order to give them money. Oh, and additional charges for processing your bill (again, having to pay money in order to give them money) and (ironically?) a $5.00 fee for paying over the phone. What a fucking racket.
posted by MikeMc at 9:33 AM on July 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Analyses of the American prison system in economic terms tend to miss that on the whole we humans view the genuine suffering of other humans as a positive good, and will as such pay top dollar to make sure that other people have their lives wrecked. it's a real problem.

I am increasingly certain that when the modal American reads about the different ways that our victims in prison are tormented and robbed, they/we think something like "can't do the time don't do the crime" and maybe follow that thought with a quiet little laugh. I'm not sure what causes us to think this way; maybe knowing that other people are being tortured is a way to feel a sense of good fortune about personally having a house or an apartment and a car and a job.

Basically, we can't pretend that we don't have a tendency toward legitimately nasty little pleasures. Raising awareness or whatever about suffering will never work, because awareness has already been raised: people already know that other people are being tormented on their behalf for no good reason. "People are suffering for no good reason" is not a critique. It's the point.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:52 AM on July 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


also Oakland County is so bad. maybe the worst place in SE Michigan. I am never, ever surprised to see the name "Oakland County" attached to stories about atrocious misgovernment.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:56 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]




From Halloween Jack's link:
in Morgan County, Alabama, federal authorities jailed Sheriff Greg Bartlett in 2009 after he admitted to depositing over $200,000 in state money allocated for prison meals into his personal account (in Alabama, sheriffs can keep excess state funds provided to pay for prisoners’ food).
America isn't a country. It's a threat.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:42 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


A relative was employed in a Michigan prison when the food service were privatized. She worked in a different department that was slated to go private next, but took retirement before that happened. According to her, the state's plan was to privatize every employee in the prison except for the guards, because then you'd risk having guards willing to smuggle things for inmates. Though the Metro Times pointed out that Aramark workers are doing just that.
posted by riruro at 11:42 AM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Could be worse. Could be nutraloaf.
posted by theorique at 1:14 PM on July 16, 2015


"People are suffering for no good reason" is not a critique. It's the point.

Law-n-order types would argue that the "good reason" is that these people are criminals. They did a bad thing, and therefore they must suffer.
posted by theorique at 1:15 PM on July 16, 2015


Michiganders, we need to wake up and get many of the "bean headed" politicans out of Lansing. The same thing is happening to your child's education through private companies subcontracting janitorial, speech teachers, construction, substitute teachers, bus drivers, technology, etc. Charter schools are shaving money off public schools FOR PROFIT BY CORPORATIONS. This doesn't seem to bother us.
Although school lunches are getting better (THANKS, Mrs. OBAMA.)
posted by beckybakeroo at 2:48 PM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


> "People are suffering for no good reason" is not a critique. It's the point.

Law-n-order types would argue that the "good reason" is that these people are criminals. They did a bad thing, and therefore they must suffer.
No. Just no.

I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are not advocating such a position, just describing one that is commonly held. But the people who do advocate such behavior are not "law and order types". They are vindictive barbarians and/or those who would pander to them.

Using our real "law and order" system the courts have already judged these prisoners and decided on appropriate punishment for them -- incarceration for the period of their sentences and other very significant abridgements of their rights. But the U.S. Constitution, the foundational document of our government, plainly prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, a category into which the act of feeding contaminated or unsafe food to prisoners is going to be assigned by pretty much every court in the nation.

No matter how much the vindictive elements of our society may wish it, our system does not in theory, and should not in practice, allow the infliction of extra-judicial punishment upon prisoners. It is in fact the antithesis of "law and order" for the state to exceed the punishments assigned by the courts for no better reason than to please a sadistic portion of the electorate. I will be the first to admit that this is a standard which we consistently and flagrantly fail to live up to, to our significant dishonor as a nation, but feeding maggot-infested food to inmates isn't acceptable under any rationale that can be applied in this situation, let alone for the purpose of enriching a private contractor.

And do not even get me started on the even more incredibly barbaric things we do to prisoners in this country -- just know that I vehemently and categorically reject any description of this and/or those other practices as being derived from the principles of "law and order."
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:24 PM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Aramark provides the food services at my university. I ate better when I lived in a homeless shelter.
posted by batbat at 5:26 PM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are not advocating such a position,

Nothing could be more obvious than that theorique is not advocating such a position. And "law-n-order" is a byword for barbarism.
posted by kenko at 8:32 PM on July 16, 2015


I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are not advocating such a position, just describing one that is commonly held.

Correct.

But the people who do advocate such behavior are not "law and order types".

I think they'd self-identify as such - you've probably met some if you're in the US. If you're "lucky" you might have an uncle you see at Thanksgiving who is one. The rant usually goes something like this, except it's four hours long and progressively gets drunker and more incoherent: The problem with this country nowadays is that we're too goddam soft on the thugs and the criminals and they're burning down cities and disrespecting our flag. Did you see what those people did to Baltimore? If I was a judge I'd have no mercy on these bastards! They'd get twenty years of hard labor with bread and water like what the goddam Japs did to our boys in World War II!
posted by theorique at 7:06 AM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


> But the people who do advocate such behavior are not
> "law and order types".

I think they'd self-identify as such - you've probably met some if you're in the US.
They would, and do, try to identify themselves that way but I'm not willing to cede them their their claim to be advocates for "law and order" and I think other people should push back on that as well.

And why shouldn't we? Law and order are both generally good things for a society; what advocates of extrajudicial punishment are advocating for is neither the law, nor is it conducive to order. No goals but cruelty and dehumanization are served by feeding maggot-infested food to inmates. Why should we allow those who would approve of this to claim the banner of either law or order?
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:45 AM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the people militating for increased brutalizations of prisoners, and the acquisition of more prisoners to brutalize, tend to view brutalization as a thing we have to do because we have all these criminals around. Typically when challenged they retreat to one of three ideas: either 1) making an example of criminals will reduce crime committed by others (the "deterrence" argument), or 2) there is something inherently beneficial to punishment; that being forced to willingly submit to inhuman brutality is a way to build a proper submissiveness toward society as a whole, and thereby become less of a criminal (the "rehabilitation" argument), or 3) crime creates an abstract debt that must be paid in the suffering of the criminal, and without that debt being paid the world will be in some nebulous way out of balance (the "justice through punishment" argument).

Typically one responds to the first two ideas by noting that very solid data indicates that neither the rehabilitative or the deterrent effects of inhuman punishment actually exist. I don't know how people respond to the third argument; it's so alien to how I experience the world, and to how the people who espouse it tend to actually behave in the world (i.e. by avoiding punishment whenever they can) that I'm left throwing up my hands and shaking my head.

My intervention here is to note that all three arguments tend to get things backwards. It appears to me that instead of understanding brutality as a proposed solution to the problem of there being too many criminals around, we should instead identify the real problem as being our fundamental desires to brutalize each other, with the manufacture of prisoners as a proposed solution to that problem.

So like instead of the standard framing for this argument: "we have all this crime around, and imprisoning and brutalizing criminals is a way to solve it," the real problem is "we have all this desire to ruin each other floating around, and so we should identify specific people as criminals and treat them as available for torture."

This framing, although it doesn't point to any solutions, necessarily, at least seems to better address the real issues than the standard framing does. In this flipped-around stood-on-its-feet frame, we can dispense with (against all evidence) pretending that our opponents see the unjust and inhuman punishment of others as a bad to be minimized rather than a good to be enjoyed. And so we can spare ourselves useless arguments about rehabilitation and deterrence, arguments that fail because they fail to address the actual issues at hand.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:44 AM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


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