July 24, 2001
Edwin Roberts, Editorial Page
Post Office Box 191
Tampa, FL 33601
Dear Mr. Roberts:
The Florida Department of Corrections is proud of its outsourcing agreement with Aramark Corporation, to provide food services for approximately 70,000 felons in state prisons. Our agreement has accomplished two very important goals: the contract has already saved over $8 million in valuable taxpayer dollars in the first year alone; and, the agreement allows our agency to move hundreds of highly-trained and dedicated Correctional Officers out of kitchen duty into prison-security positions. Savings generated by this contract can be much better used to pay for other priorities within the Department and the state's entire budget.
I am pleased to inform your readers that this agreement is now implemented in about 35% of our prisons and institutions with outstanding results. Aramark has employed many of our highly-skilled food service directors, ensuring continuity and experience in this important endeavor. To date, our wardens have been highly complimentary regarding Aramark's efforts, and Aramark has praised our work in preparing our staff for this transition.
Your article of July 22, 2001, regarding the "failure" of a prison-food contract with Aramark in Ohio implies that our agreement in Florida could produce a similar result. This implication is misleading and inaccurate. Our contract with Aramark is quite different than the agreement in Ohio, primarily because Florida will compensate Aramark based on inmate counts, not meals served. Aramark must serve state prisoners based on a midnight inmate count. The counts are totaled on a monthly basis and multiplied by the per diem specified in the contract. This billing method is superior as it is indisputable and is under agency control. Additionally the information is easily verifiable and will be audited by our Inspector General's office.
In addition, the contractor is only allowed a modest 3% annual increase to cover inflationary costs. Under no circumstances will the Department agree to further increases not authorized under the contract or required by the Legislature.
The Florida Department of Corrections insists on contracts that protect the taxpayers and the public. Nowhere is this more true than in contracts affecting prison security. In the food outsourcing contract, the department has mechanisms in place to see that the appropriate meals are served. The contract with Aramark requires adherence to the agency's master menu which dictates the meal portions. The department has three grant-funded nutritionists that manage the master menu and do site visits to ensure compliance. In addition the department has three monitors assigned to each region who visit every kitchen monthly to inspect for portion control, sanitation and master menu compliance.
Food is of primary importance in a prison and the wardens and food service employees will be reporting any deviation from the contract promptly. Aramark is subject to penalties built into the contract for the non-compliance.
To summarize, the Department's contracts and processes contain a variety of safeguards to prevent the incidents alleged to have occurred in Ohio. These include rigid specifications regarding food portion and nutritional requirements, clear and indisputable billing processes, sanctions for contract non-compliance and on-site monitoring. It is important to note that the Department has been providing food service by contract in 7 institutions for over 6 years. We have a proven track record in doing it right.
Michael W. Moore