LANSING (Detroit Free Press) -- Four female Aramark prison workers at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia were fired today for having inappropriate sexual contact with male inmates inside a walk-in cooler, a Corrections Department official confirmed.
"It's unprecedented that four workers at the same facility, in the same day, are placed on stop order," said Corrections Department spokesman Russ Marlan. "It's concerning on a number of levels."
The firings came after officials reviewed recent surveillance video, Marlan said. Two of the kitchen workers were at work today and were escorted out. Two others were fired and not allowed into the prison when they showed up for work, he said.
The firings also mean more than 80 Aramark workers have now been banned from prison property for various infractions since the company took over on Dec. 8, eliminating 370 state jobs.
The conduct involved kissing and sexual touching with several inmates, but no intercourse, Marlan said. The firings reduce Aramark staff at Bellamy from 14 to 10 and help will need to be brought in from elsewhere, Marlan said.
"I don't believe all four of them were in the cooler at the same time," Marlan said.
It's the latest in a litany of problems for Aramark Correctional Services since the Philadelphia-based company took over food services from state workers in December.
Officials have fined Aramark $98,000 over meal shortages and menu substitutions and began strict enforcement of the meal portion and substitution clauses of the contract on July 1. There have also been problems with food quality, security issues, Aramark workers smuggling in contraband and getting too friendly with inmates, and growing prisoner unrest.
The Free Press detailed problems on Sunday after receiving thousands of pages of records related to the three-year, $145-million Aramark contract under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act. Those records disclosed a range of problems, including an earlier incident in which an Aramark worker and an inmate were discovered engaged in a sex act in a walk-in cooler at Carson City Correctional Facility.
Marlan said criminal charges are possible against the Aramark workers in the latest incident. Federal law treats any sexual contact between prison staff and inmates as abuse, and officials are investigating, Marlan said.
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