Lawsuit: Aramark Knew Employees Were Sexually Assaulting Ohio Prisoners But Did Nothing

[image-1]The rape of a Cleveland woman at a downtown jail is just one ugly part in a series of lawsuits aimed at the state over the use of controversial private food service company, Aramark.

Originally hired on in 2013 after the state cut ties with the public employee union that previously handled the culinary responsibilities at Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction facilities, the company is now being hit with complaints and legal action, according to a recent rundown by the Columbus Dispatch. The latest reporting tracks with Scene's own hard look at the company's track record in Ohio and Michigan.

The Cleveland inmate, serving a six-year sentence, was harassed and eventually raped in May 2015 in the kitchen at the Northeast Integration Center on E. 30th near downtown. Her assailant, an Aramark employee named Jonathan Velez, was eventually arrested and charged with the crime. But according to lawsuits the victim has filed in state and federal court, Aramark knew Velez was messing with prisoners but failed to stop the inappropriate behavior.

And as the Dispatch reports, this is just the tip of the iceberg. According to the paper, 300 Aramark staffers "have been banned from working in state prisons because they imported contraband or committed security violations or other misconduct" since the company took over at ODRC. The Dispatch determined an average of seven company employees were banned each moth. One-hundred-and-sixty-eight Aramarkers were dismissed for “unprofessional and inappropriate relationships” with prisoners.

Employee misbehavior and criminality are not the only problem. The company has also been accused to providing disgusting food to prisoners. As Scene reported in February 2015, Ohio "cited Aramark 240 times in 2014 for shorting inmates on food. The state's prison kitchens have also seen issues with maggots, mice turds, employee shortages, substandard food, and unsanitary conditions."