Privatizing Prison Food: Cutting Costs and Irking Inmates

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There are 50,179 inmates locked up around Ohio.

To feed adult inmates, the state pours $79 million into the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's budget. Gov. John Kasich's administration is hoping to knock that down to $65.5 million each year by working with a private food vendor.

A request for proposals was issued last week. When results come back, state officials will know how close they can get to Indiana's coveted $1.19 per meal rate. (Ohio's per-meal rate is now $1.58.)

The Dayton Daily News has details regarding the state's 469 youth inmates:

The state Department of Youth Services...spends $6.18 million a year, or $27.60 per inmate per day for food service, said spokeswoman Kim Parsell. The costs are higher because youths don’t help with food prep or cooking, the meals adhere to federal guidelines for school lunches and the teen-aged detainees have higher caloric needs, she said. The state receives $5.51 per day per youth as reimbursement from the national school lunch program.

Switching to a private vendor is expected to save DYS about $1.2 million a year, she said.

But a common concern for this time of move is the fact that private contractors don't have to yield to federal nutrition guidelines. Furthermore, there's the ever-looming notion of *profit* that hangs in the air. Last year, a deadly riot broke out at a Mississippi detention center following similar turns in food quality and health.

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