Foreclosures during the Great Recession added to thousands of blighted properties in Columbus. But, a state program helped fund demolition of many of those houses and apartment units.
Prison Guards Blame Food Vendor For Maggots, Security Problems
There are problems with maggots, food shortages and contraband in state prisons, and the committee that inspects those facilities is blaming a private vendor hired by the prison system.
The head of the stateâ€™s prison inspection team told lawmakers on the panel that oversees it that there are problems with Aramark â€“ related to sanitation, food quality and supply, security training, staffing and documentation.
This comes after reports of maggots in food, meal shortages and substitutions creating long lines, and the disciplining of nearly 100 Aramark employees who are banned from entering any Ohio prison for security violations such as bringing in contraband or having inappropriate relationships with inmates.
A.J. Frame says heâ€™s seen the maggot problem firsthand where he works as a corrections officer at the Noble Correctional Institution in southeast Ohio. He came to the hearing wearing a T-shirt that read, â€œGot maggots? We do.â€
Heâ€™s worried these food problems will spark a crisis.
â€œA riot eventually,” Frame says. “Theyâ€™re already getting to a point where every meal weâ€™re trying to break stuff up to keep them off the coordinators and stuff right now. I wouldnâ€™t want to eat maggots.â€
Terry Hollon is a corrections officer at the Pickaway Correctional Institution. He says thereâ€™s been a large flow of contraband into that facility in the last year or so.
â€œWe find heroin, we find cocaine, we find suboxone. Now thereâ€™s more than one way to get it in, and Iâ€™m not going to say that itâ€™s all Aramark. But we never had these kinds of issues previously.â€
The prison inspection committeeâ€™s report says Aramark employees only receive five hours of security training. The state has fined Aramark nearly $300,000 for ongoing issues at seven prisons, and that money will be used for more training of Aramark workers.
And state prisons director Gary Mohr says heâ€™s meeting with Aramark on a regular basis to make sure itâ€™s following its contract â€“ or that contract could be terminated.
â€œThe tipping point is, are we getting better or not? And that has to be the gauge and thatâ€™ll be the gauge that weâ€™ll use.â€
But Mohr also says that the prisons department has checked out reports of maggots in food, and found sometimes the bugs were put there by inmates. Aramark President John Hanner also testified to the lawmakers that Aramark is committed to fixing these problems, but that they are very rare.
For example, he says the food problems only occur in less than 1% of the 30 million meals theyâ€™ve served â€“ which he admits is still a big number at 300,000.
â€œItâ€™s not a small number, but look, hereâ€™s the other point. We wanted to represent 99% of the time, our people are doing a great job,” Hanner says.
“Youâ€™re not going to hear that. Let me be clear about that. These are Ohio citizens that weâ€™ve hired, that we are 100% staffed and these people come to work every day and do a great job under trying circumstances.â€
And Hanner says heâ€™s personally responsible for the Ohio prisons contract, and that heâ€™s confident the company has the problems under control. Aramark says itâ€™s saved the state $14 million a year since winning the prison food management contract.
The prisons workers union has been critical of the hiring of Philadelphia-based Aramark, which has also recorded food problems in Michigan and had problems with previous prison food management contracts in Kentucky and Florida.
The Ohio Civil Service Employees Union says if the prisons department is spending resources to deal with these issues, it doubts Aramark is saving the state much money at all.