Prisoners to Strike Against 'Prison Industrial Complex' and Food Giant Aramark

An Aramark delivery truck. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/cc)

Prisoners to Strike Against 'Prison Industrial Complex' and Food Giant Aramark

Aramark reaps in massive profits as a part of the "prison industrial complex," say protest organizers

Organizers of last year's prison strike are planning a new protest against Aramark, a massive for-profit food provider of both sports stadium fare and prison meals nationwide.

Aramark "provides meals for more than 500 correctional facilities across the country and has been the subject of complaints about maggots and rocks, sexual harassment, drug trafficking and other employee misconduct," noted PBS, which on Sunday first reported the latest planned protest.

Leaders of the Free Alabama Movement, the organizers behind September's nationwide prison strike that sought to draw attention to what they call modern-day slavery, are planning to march on January 14 in Washington, D.C. to protest the company.

Free Alabama Movement spokesman Pastor Kenneth Glasgow also told PBS that prisoners around the country will strike in solidarity with the protest--marking the second time they've gone on strike in the last six months.

As for how successful the protest will be, one prisoner commented to PBS that "I think many of us were surprised by the magnitude of and coordination exhibited by the prison strike last year, so it would not surprise me if this turned out to be quite widespread. Time will tell."

The organizers told PBS that Aramark was representative of the "prison industrial complex," that is, the number of private corporations that rely on incarcerating people to feed their profits.

"They are the biggest benefactors of prisoners," Glasgow observed.

"And they have a history of neglecting prisoners, serving bad food, not enough food, or undernourished food," Glasgow added. "[T]his is why we have chosen to boycott."

Journalist and author Chris Hedges explored Aramark's vast profits made on the backs of those incarcerated through the for-profit prison boom, writing in 2013:

Aramark [...] does what corporations are doing throughout the society: It lavishes campaign donations on pliable politicians, who in turn hand out state and federal contracts to political contributors, as well as write laws and regulations to benefit their corporate sponsors at the expense of the poor. Aramark fires unionized workers inside prisons and jails and replaces them with underpaid, nonunionized employees. And it makes sure the food is low enough in both quality and portion to produce huge profits.

Aramark, often contracted to provide food to prisoners at about a dollar a meal, is one of numerous corporations, from phone companies to construction firms, that have found our grotesque system of mass incarceration to be very profitable. The bodies of the poor, when they are not captive, are worth little to corporations. But bodies behind bars can each generate $40,000 to $50,000 a year for corporate coffers.

"It used to be that prison food was prepared and served by [government] employees, sometimes with prison workers assisting," David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, told PBS. "This is part of the increasing privatization of prisons and ancillary services that we've seen over the past few decades."

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