The Michigan Department of Corrections, which was at the center of a controversy over problems with its former food contractor, is setting up a 30-person unit to monitor the department's private contracts for the supply of food, medical treatment and other services, reports the Detroit Free Press. Though privatization is on the rise in state government, officials say the corrections department is the first state department to set up such a unit. Critics say the full cost of contract monitoring does not always get factored in when the state opts to replace state employees with private contractors in a bid to save money.
Department Director Heidi Washington says her department has contracted out a number of services in addition to the food services contract, which was awarded to Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services but after much controversy switched to Trinity Services Group. The department spent about $250 million last year on about 185 service contracts, including about 70 substance abuse contracts, more than a dozen sex offender related contracts and about a dozen prisoner re-entry contracts with community service agencies.