State employees union makes pitch to take back job of feeding Ohio prisoners

A state employees' union made a pitch Monday to take back the job of feeding Ohio's 50,000 prisoners.

The union's proposal includes a lower per-meal cost than that offered by Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services, whose 2-year contract is up this summer.

The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association would also strengthen security and sanitation training for 338 food service coordinators and return dozens of lieutenants and captains to security duty rather than monitoring food services.

The union said its per-meal cost came in at $1.22 compared with $1.28 for Aramark, saving taxpayers $2.9 million a year.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has recommended renewing Aramark's contract, saying it has saved taxpayers more than expected and had relatively few problems.

Aramark is on track to save $17 million this year, compared with original estimates of $14 million in annual savings, according to the state.

The prisons agency last year levied $272,000 in fines on Aramark for contract violations, including running out of main courses, understaffing, inappropriate relationships between inmates and Aramark employees, and a few cases of maggots near food preparation areas.

The company's performance in Michigan also has been under scrutiny over misconduct by some of its employees and food contamination issues.

Ohio says food services experienced similar issues when feeding prisoners was a state-operated program.

Prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said the department is reviewing the proposal. Aramark declined to comment.