ST. CLAIRSVILLE Financial issues have meant the Belmont Correctional Institute has privatized food service and the change has led to speculation about increased risk of contraband. The Times Leader contacted the institute to speak about security precautions and operations.
Deputy of Corrections Ricky Seyfang said the contract with Aramark Correctional Services for the operation and management of food service begins on Sept. 8. The change was necessitated by the shortfall of $60 million the DRC is facing in the Fiscal Year 14-15 biennium budget.
This is due to health insurance premiums, payroll changes, a projected increase in the inmate population, and inflation in drugs and medical services.
"Director Mohr remains committed to meeting our budget without closing any housing units or laying off security staff," Seyfang stated. "Not only will DRC achieve over a $28 million savings during the biennium by contracting out food service operations, but Director Mohr has committed to exceeding the current table of organization for the correction officer ranks in order to place all interested and eligible staff members in a position at their current work location."
She said Aramark is responsible for the purchase of all food and supplies necessary for the operation and management of food service in all DRC state-operated institutions.
Aramark is required to adhere to the DRC cycle menu and the same food item specifications that are utilized for products currently distributed by Central Warehouse or provided through state term contracts. They are required to purchase meat and milk from Ohio Penal Industries.
Seyfang said the correctional institutes have made no changes in operations in response. She added that Aramark's employees are required to complete contractor orientation in accordance with DRC policies. This includes a component on institution security.
"Four institutions did not have adequate security staff in the inmate dining area," Seyfang noted that these included Mansfield Correctional Institute, Southeastern Correctional Institute, the Ohio Reformatory for Women and Toledo Correctional Institute. "These sites have been allocated the staff needed and the cost of the staff was deducted from the gross savings to achieve the net savings."
She said there have been no problems or issues so far. She added that the contractor orientation contains training on contraband and violators will be handled as per DRC policy.
DeFrank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org