Skubick: Prison food controversy continues to boil

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Controversy continues to haunt the privatized state prison food service vendor.

But the State Corrections Director Heidi Washington declines to take a stance on whether the state should stick with that or return to a state civil service system.

Rarely does the media get to talk with the state prison director Heidi Washington who has almost two decades in the state corrections department.

So when she was out in public the other day, she was asked about the continuing controversy surrounding Trinity, the state’s second private food vendor, after the first one was fired.

Her response? “There are challenges.”

The company so far has been fined $3.8 million for having maggots in food, not providing the right food, for employees having sex with inmates, staffing shortages, and smuggling drugs.

In all some 176 of the employees have been barred from working in the prison.

Washington explains “we have standards and we hold them to them and we’re going to continue to do that.”

The union that once represented the state food employees would love to get that contract back, contending they could do a better job which would, in turn. make the prisons safer since good food is one way to keep the inmates content.

Does the director have a recommendation: status quo or switch back?

“Well, right now Im working with what we have at hand,” answered Washington.

So would it be better to bring it back to the way it was? Washington would not answer that. “I’m not going to respond to that right now.”

But what if the senator who chairs the prison budget committee asked you for a recommendation?

“Like I said, I’m going to continue to work on the system we have and we’ll see what happens with that. I’m not going to answer any further.”

Democratic State Senator Steve Bieda, who has worked on prison food issues, believes it is “sad” that the director does not have a recommendation. “That’s one of the reasons why it’s sad, isn’t it?,” said the senator.

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