July 16, 2014 at 9:39 pm

4 prison food workers in Ionia fired for sexual contact with prisoners

Four Aramark prison workers at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia were fired Wednesday for having inappropriate contact “of a sexual nature” with inmates inside a walk-in cooler, a corrections department official said.

Spokesman Russ Marlan said the firings came after officials reviewed recent surveillance video that showed the four “on camera engaging in inappropriate behavior some of which was sexual in nature. They were viewed kissing and inappropriately touching prisoners.”

Counting the recent firings, more than 80 Aramark workers are now banned from prison property for infractions since the company took over prison food services Dec. 8.

Last Friday, a spokesperson Gov. Rick Snyder said the Republican governor has “serious concerns” about the private contractor for problems that have included maggots in food equipment and inappropriate worker relations with inmates.

The comments came after two corrections worker unions stepped up pressure on Snyder and Republican lawmakers to dump Aramark as the state’s private prison system food contractor and end a $145 million contract that resulted in the layoff of 370 public employees. The state hopes to save $12 million to $17 million a year through the outsourcing move.

The corrections department sent Aramark a letter June 6 warning the company it would strictly enforce the contract provisions regarding any further incidents after July 1. In March, the department penalized the company $93,000 for violations that included over-familiarity between food workers and prisoners and has led to the banning of 74 Aramark workers from the prison system.

Problems mounted as food areas were temporarily shut down and inmates were partially quarantined with apparent food-related illness in two incidents in which maggots were discovered this month in kitchen areas at two Jackson prisons.

Similar problems are occurring in some Ohio prisons where Aramark provides food service, according to reports.

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