Private Firm to Provide Indiana Prison Meals

Published July 1, 2005

Indiana has hired a private company to serve meals to the state’s prison inmates, a move Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) said will save taxpayers about $11.5 million a year.

ARAMARK Corp. of Philadelphia, an international provider of food services for stadiums, arenas, schools, businesses, and institutions, received a 10-year, $258 million contract to provide meals in Indiana’s 30 prisons. The average cost of a prison meal is expected to drop from $1.41 to 99 cents.

Daniels announced the contract May 17. It takes effect July 1.

Jails Already Use Firm

Three Indiana county jails–in Vanderburgh, Hendricks, and Marion Counties–already use ARAMARK to provide meal service. The company provides food service at 450 state, county, and municipal prisons and jails in North America.

“We are pleased to be able to expand our services in Indiana,” said Tim Campbell, president of ARAMARK Correctional Services, in announcing the agreement. “With over 30 years experience in the correctional services industry and currently serving over 450 clients, we believe we are uniquely able to meet our customer expectations while providing both a safe, secure environment for our employees and customers and value for the taxpayers of the State of Indiana.”

Campbell said despite the lower per-meal costs, nutrition levels will remain high.

Private/Public Competition

Daniels said he plans to announce additional moves to have private firms compete for government work, but none is imminent.

Daniels declines to describe the initiative as “privatization.” He told Indianapolis Star reporter Mary Beth Schneider for a May 18 article, “I don’t use the word ‘privatization’ because that suggests a bias or a prejudgment to the private side winning. I’m indifferent who wins so long as the taxpayer wins. The taxpayer won big today.”

Inmate Training Included

Campbell said ARAMARK’s “Inmate to Workmate” Program aligns with the Indiana Department of Corrections’ existing inmate re-entry initiatives. It is designed to train inmates in the food service business and prepare them for future employment in the food service industry.

Department Commissioner J. David Donahue said all current food service employees at each prison who wish to remain employed with the department will be offered opportunities. If employees choose to remain in the food service field, they will be given priority for employment with ARAMARK.

Indiana’s Department of Corrections has 336 food service employees, according to Donahue.

Steve Stanek ([email protected]) is managing editor of Budget & Tax News.