Ky. inmate survey shows decline in food marks

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Surveys of Kentucky's prison inmates
indicate they are less pleased with the food they're served than
they were a few years ago.

The state outsourced the work in 2005 to a private company,
Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services. An Aramark
spokeswoman says the inmates may have "self-interested
motivations" for criticizing the food.

The level of satisfaction was lower at Northpoint Training
Center in Boyle County than among prisoners statewide. Prisoners
rioted and burned much of the Northpoint complex on Aug. 21, and
state Rep. Brent Yonts said corrections officers, other lawmakers
and inmates have all told him that unrest "over food" figured
into the riot.

But Aramark officials have said there's no evidence that
anything but gang violence and anger over prison yard restrictions
played a role in the riot. They said their food was not a factor.

The Lexington Herald-Leader obtained the survey results under
the Open Records Act and reported Tuesday that early this year,
state inmates rated the food 3.24 on a scale of 1 to 10, down from
5.84 in 2003. At Northpoint, the rating this year was 2.66,
compared with 6.13 in 2003.

Yonts, D-Greenville, has filed legislation that would cancel
Aramark's $12 million annual contract with the state.

State officials haven't said yet what led to the Northpoint
incident. Eight guards and eight inmates suffered minor injuries.

Small portions, cleanliness and food shortages were among the
issues inmates often addressed in the survey.

"Get rid of Aramark, bring back the state," an inmate at Roederer Correctional Complex in La Grange wrote in the anonymous
2009 survey.

At the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex, an inmate wrote,
"I would like not to be hungry all the time."

Jennifer Brislin, a state Justice Cabinet spokeswoman, said
Tuesday that Aramark's food "meets all recommended daily
allowances and dietary requirements."

"This drop in ratings may correlate with the emphasis on a more
heart-healthy menu (non-fatty foods), less seasoning (salt and
sugar)," Brislin said.

She noted that the surveys showed more inmates were eating in
prison dining halls in 2009 than in 2008.

"The inmate responses are typical for a correctional
environment," said Sarah Jarvis, a spokeswoman for Aramark.

"Prisoners and others complaining about Aramark's service appear
to have questionable and self-interested motivations, and we will
not be distracted from our goal of providing top quality service
and significant taxpayer savings to the people of Kentucky."

Northpoint officials who monitored Aramark's food service on a
daily basis gave satisfactory ratings for the most part in 2009,
documents show. However, some inmates wrote "still hungry" and
"more portions" on surveys taken early this year.

The state pays Aramark $2.63 for each inmate served each day.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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