Ohio Hopes Private Vendor Will Save Millions on Inmate Food; Union Dubious


Ohio plans to hire a private vendor to feed 50,179 inmates in the state's 32 adult and youth prisons, a move that Gov. John Kasich’s aides expect will save taxpayers $16 million a year but that state prison workers say could lead to trouble, reports the Dayton Daily News. Feeding adult inmates now costs the state $1.58 per meal, which adds up to about $79 million per year. Prison officials estimate that a private vendor can shave 19 percent off the food budget and they note that Indiana's prison food contractor charges $1.19 per meal.

The state Department of Youth Services, which has 469 youths at four detention facilities, spends $6.18 million a year, or $27.60 per inmate per day for food service. The costs are higher because youths don't help with food prep or cooking, the meals adhere to federal guidelines for school lunches and the teen-aged detainees have higher caloric needs. The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which represents 0,000 prison workers, warns that a contractor will pay lower wages, hire fewer people and dish out less food to make a profit. Tim Shafer of the union said complaints about inmate food may sound like whining but they contribute to the safety and security of a prison. “As a former corrections officer, I can tell you one of the best things in the world is a full inmate. They want to sit down and chill out,” Shafer said.

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