Politics

Aramark will serve Denver’s jails as of July 1 after city council approves contract

Aramark’s bid to provide Denver’s jails with food service cleared the Denver City Council on Monday night — just three days before the $9 million contract takes effect with the company that has reportedly served rotten and expired food to prison and jail inmates across the U.S.

Denver County Sheriff’s Department officials promised oversight and accountability during the 15-minute discussion among the City Council members, who voted 9-2 for the two-year contract. Council members Candi CdeBaca and Amanda Sawyer voted against the contract.

The Sheriff’s Department’s Chief Vincent Line said last week that there aren’t enough low-level offenders to work in the kitchen at the jail and downtown detention center. He also said he was unconcerned about Aramark, which has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after reports in Michigan that staff had improper contact with inmates and served them food that had been thrown in the trash. Similar reports have surfaced across the country.

City Council members expressed concern about Aramark and asked staff in Mayor Michael Hancock’s office whether oversight measures would be in place to make sure the company serves inmates appropriately, according to emails sent last week and obtained by The Denver Post.

Line responded to those concerns in a June 23 memo to council members. In it, he said the sheriff’s department leadership will oversee all food service operations; that Aramark must meet health code standards and the jail and detention center will be subject to inspections. Complaints about food would be handled within the department, he said.

In a statement to The Post, Aramark spokeswoman Heather Dotchel said allegations in lawsuits filed by inmates in Jefferson and Arapahoe counties (that were dismissed by a judge) “do not accurately represent the work of our people or the quality of what we provide to those we serve.”

The company serves more than 300,000 inmates every day, Dotchel said.

Line repeated much of that information for council members before they voted. Councilman Kevin Flynn confirmed with city staff that the contract with Aramark can be terminated if the company doesn’t meet the appropriate standards. He added that the company serves food to inmates in more than 400 facilities across the country and has had complaints in some of those jails and prisons.

“I don’t want to be one of those that has complaints,” Flynn said.

With its latest contract, Aramark will serve an average of 1,380 inmates each day, manage and supervise everything related to food service in the county jail and downtown detention center. The contract begins Thursday and runs through June 30, 2023.

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