Enforce Rules For Prison Food

Feeding the thousands of inmates at Ohio prisons is a big, demanding job. Getting it right all the time may be impossible.

But state taxpayers are entitled to expect a minimum level of service from the company they pay $110 million a year for the service. Maggots in prisoners’ food and on serving equipment would be viewed by many as far from acceptable.

On June 30, maggots were found in turkey roll served to some inmates at the Reformatory for Women in Marysville. A spokeswoman for Aramark, the Philadelphia company with a $110 million contract for prison food service, said the issue had been corrected.

But then a newspaper discovered reports of maggots in food and on serving equipment at the Trumbull Correctional Institution in Leavittsburg. At the same time, reports of a similar problem earlier in the year at the Marysville facility were found.

State officials already had reason to be concerned about Aramark. They fined the company $142,100 this year for various breaches in the food service contract. One was not providing enough workers to handle meals for prisoners.

And the American Civil Liberties Union, which has suggested the state terminate its arrangement with Aramark, has accused the company of another failure. It allegedly involved a Michigan prison where more than two dozen inmates were sickened after maggots were found in food. Aramark handles food service there, too.

Aramark is a large company with an excellent reputation in many of its endeavors. Reacting too harshly to problems at Ohio prisons would not be fair or prudent. And again, it would not be realistic; flawless performance in a food service operation that includes 27 prisons would be quite a feat.

Still, state corrections officials should investigate the situation thoroughly. If Aramark needs to change procedures to avoid more reports of maggots in prisoners’ food – or other problems – the company should be instructed it must do just that. Otherwise, Ohio taxpayers could be on the hook for lawsuits filed by the inmates.