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How Private Equity is Turning Public Prisons into Big Profits


In recent years, corporations have privatized almost every part of the public prison system. Now, PE firms are swooping in, seeking lavish returns for investors.

By Tim Requarth | 30 April 2019

THE NATION — When the Bellamy Creek correctional facility’s longtime kitchen officer decided to leave in 2014, David Angel requested the position. Angel, who was nearing retirement, had worked at prisons all over Michigan, including stints at three maximum-security facilities. “I wanted a permanent position for my last few years in the department. I had a lot of respect among the prisoner and officer staff, and I thought I could do the job and keep people safe,” he said. “Um… I was wrong.”

The Bellamy Creek kitchen is typical for a Michigan prison. Sixty incarcerated men staff it, doing everything from slicing potatoes with tethered knives to working the dish tank. Angel’s job was to provide security while six or seven outside employees oversaw the operations. The employees were new hires by Aramark, a food-service company recently contracted by the state to run its prison kitchens.

“It was a constant daily struggle,” Angel recalled. At first, it was the little things: Food was spilled but never cleaned up. Meals were served late, or the kitchen would run out of food and the staff would have to swap ingredients. “I saw peanut butter substituted for a hamburger patty more times than I care to count.” […]

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