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      Senator Casperson expresses disappointment over prison privatization

      Senator Tom Casperson began by stating he's "disappointed" in how things have turned out.

      The senator said the decision made to privatize food service in the Michigan Department of Corrections is about saving money, however, he doesn't feel decision makers in Lansing compared "apples to apples."

      The new company, ARAMARK, is out of Philadelphia so "local vendors" will also going to take a hit under the new deal.

      "That wasn't factored in," the Senator believes.

      Food service director for Ojibwa Corrections, Mike Deshambo, admitted that there are financial "problems," but they have solutions to "fix them."

      "We can save $530,000 a month already," he added.

      Alan Quattrin, president of the Michigan Association of Governmental Employees, told Casperson in the meeting that he believes this is politically motivated.

      "We can show all kinds of ways we can save money, but they won't let us. It's not about money; it's about politics," Quattrin chimed in. "It takes effect October 1. What do we do about these people who are losing their jobs?" he asked the Senator.

      "I'm going to meet with the governor's strategic affairs advisor and suggest that any openings in corrections, these people need to be priority, and if there's any state openings, they get priority. They also need to look at if there are people close to retirement to buy them out," Casperson responded. "But I'm not ready to quit yet because this is not right."

      Tom Tylutki, president of the Michigan Corrections Organization (MCO), told Casperson the employees "are more than a food service."

      "When the bell rings, they have a job to help lockdown the place. If they think they're just cooking, they're wrong. They're responsible for a whole variety of things, and we are worried about the security of the prison," stated Tylutki.

      The food service employees said they respond to riots or violence as do the guards and said ARAMAEK employees are not going to be allowed.

      The workers then turned the topic to their menus which are state regulated. They say ARAMARK is not being held to the same civil service standards and menu regulations. These employees even showed the senator documented proof that the new menu portions are significantly less, adding that it isn't a fair playing field when comparing costs and savings.

      "We have to give them milk in the morning and offer it at lunch; they do not," said Todd Hennigan, food service leader at the Alger Correction Facility and AFSCME local 3639 Union Representative.

      "We have to give them juice everyday; they don't. They only have to give them juice three days a week," he added.

      The corrections employees touched on several incidents, including one in Florida, where beef was changed to turkey, causing a riot. Those opposed believe all these little food changes could erupt into protest and violence by inmates. They add that it may not matter to us, but a meal is all a prisoner has.

      Casperson arranged either an in-person or video conference meeting with Dick Posthumus, the governor's strategic affairs advisor, to present all of this information on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.

      "I'll do what I can," Casperson told worried employees.

      Currently a bleak fate lies ahead for the 370 employees. The senator says he will present the Civil Service Commission this information to investigate whether the contract that was bid on was valid. If it wasn't, it could be voided.