Mich. prison food worker fired after found with drugs

The discovery of drugs on a food service worker is the latest in a series of incidents since the state privatized its prison food service

By Paul Egan
Detroit Free Press

LANSING, Mich. — A food service worker at Cotton Correctional Facility near Jackson was fired and turned over to the Michigan State Police on Thursday after a search as he reported to work that day turned up suspected drugs, a Corrections Department spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

Also, two sections of Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility near Ionia remained on lockdown Tuesday after a series of weekend fights related to suspected gang activity.

The discovery of suspected drugs on a Trinity Food Services worker is the latest in a series of such incidents since the state privatized its prison food service in December 2013.

The suspected drug smuggling incident involving a Trinity Food Services worker is the latest in a series of such incidents since the State of Michigan privatized its prison food service in December 2013.

"On Thursday, a Trinity employee — not a supervisor — was caught by our staff at the metal detector ... with what was believed to be drugs," department spokesman Chris Gautz said Tuesday.

"We placed him on stop order, contacted MSP, and they took the suspected drugs and spoke with the individual. Our staff did a phenomenal job stopping this from entering the facility."

Gautz wouldn't provide further details, and the MSP did not immediately return a call about the status of the case.

The number of smuggling incidents involving kitchen employees has declined, but not ceased, since Florida-based Trinity replaced Aramark Correctional Services of Philadelphia in September 2015.

In May, a Trinity worker at the Ionia Correctional Facility was fired and the MSP opened an investigation after he was allegedly found in possession of heroin and methamphetamine.

At Bellamy Creek, two units holding higher-security Level 4 prisoners have been locked down since Saturday morning after several fights broke out, Gautz said.

In all, about 480 of the prison's 1,880 inmates were confined to their cells at least until Tuesday afternoon, when officials were trying to ease the situation back to normalcy and allow the locked-down prisoners out to attend the chow hall, Gautz said.

As a result of the disturbances, 27 inmates were put in segregation and another six were moved to other prisons, he said.

"Our inspectors are interviewing prisoners and reviewing video to determine the reason," he said.

Gautz wouldn't confirm the fights were related to gang activity, though he said that was possible.

Anita Lloyd, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Corrections Organization union, said corrections officers believe gangs are behind the violence.

"Gang activity has always been a concern of ours, but our members are getting more concerned as gang-related fights seem to be occurring more regularly than they used to," she said.

In July, multiple violent incidents, including a stabbing and a separate incident that sent a prison sergeant to the hospital for an assessment, broke out at Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula, also due to suspected gang activity.

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