Whatever its other drawbacks, life in prison supposedly assures inmates of having "three hots and a cot."
But some Kentucky inmates may have been shortchanged a bit on the "three hots" part of the deal.
State Auditor Crit Luallen's office released a report Thursday on its review of the Department of Corrections' $12 million contract with ARAMARK Correctional Services to feed the state's prisoners. The audit — prompted by reports that food service was a contributing factor in the August 2009 riot at Northpoint Training Center — produced a number of troubling findings.
Chief among them: Aramark refused to provide auditors with detailed information about food costs, personnel costs and other data, which prompted Luallen to ask corrections officials and the Finance and Administration Cabinet to consider whether that represented a breach of contract by ARAMARK.
Such a review seems highly appropriate since the company's contract specifically says the auditor's office "shall have access to any books, documents, records or other evidence ... for the purpose of financial audit or program review."
Based on the information auditors were able to obtain, the report said the state may be overpaying ARAMARK by more than $130,000 a year due to billing errors and other contract violations.
In addition, the audit report noted instances of delays in service caused by food shortages, substitutions to the menu without advance approval, inventory records that suggested approved recipes and proper quantities of ingredients were not being used, plus one health department report on a possible outbreak of food-related illness that indicated proper food temperatures were not maintained.
Not surprisingly, considering the problematic findings about ARAMARK's performance, auditors also found evidence of lax state oversight of the company's compliance with contract specifications.
All of this lends credence to complaints aired by both inmates and guards in the wake of the Northpoint incident — complaints largely dismissed out of hand by Gov. Steve Beshear's administration. Beshear himself famously responded with a remark about "criminals who wish they could go to Wendy's."
Well, the $2.63 the state is paying ARAMARK per day per prisoner might not go too far at Wendy's. But it should provide prisoners the "three hots" covered by the state contract with the company.
Corrections officials need to do a far better job of ensuring that it does, lest more Northpoints occur in the future.