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Union Says Prison Security Weakened By Private Food Contractor

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LANSING (AP) - Security at Michigan prisons has gotten weaker in the six weeks since food service operations were handed over to a private contractor, said the head of the union representing state corrections officers.

Employees of Aramark Correctional Services have been fraternizing with inmates and prisoners working in the kitchens are getting easier access to knives, Michigan Corrections Organization President Tom Tylutki said in a letter to Dan Heyns, director of the Michigan Department of Corrections.

“There are over-familiarity complaints, contraband issues, tons of no call/no shows, and a complete disregard to the handling of critical tools such as knives,” Tylutki said in the letter, obtained by the Detroit Free Press.

“The untrained Aramark employees’ behavior is compromising the security of our prisons, and it places staff and prisoners in danger,” he said.

Corrections department spokesman Russ Marlan said Wednesday that some of the complaints were accurate but others were untrue or exaggerated.

“We were aware of each and every one of these situations and they were effectively dealt with by facility wardens and contract monitors,” Marlan said in an email message to the Free Press. “We have eight state employee contact monitors working across Michigan ensuring that Aramark complies with all requirements under the contract.”

Aramark spokeswoman Karen Cutler told The Associated Press the company is “committed to ensuring the safety of our employees, officers, staff and inmates, and provide all employees with training on proper procedures and protocols.”

Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration signed a $145 million, three-year contract with Aramark in 2013 to operate prison food services, leading to elimination of 370 Corrections Department jobs. The administration says the move will save $16 million a year.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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