© St. Petersburg Times, published July 7, 2002
Re: Prisons need better food service, editorial, July 2.
Privatization of food services has saved the hard-working taxpayers of our state $7.9-million during the first year of operation. In addition, this initiative has allowed over 470 correctional officers working in prison kitchens to be reassigned to security positions within the prison compound. The privatization of food services has allowed the Department of Corrections to maximize its limited resources by reducing costs and redirecting resources to security operations. The problems you allude to in your editorial have been isolated incidents and not systemic across the state. The Department of Corrections is committed to ensuring that our inmates live in a safe and humane environment and that they are provided proper nourishment. To that end, all meals are planned by registered dieticians and include proper serving sizes.
Whenever change occurs, there is an accompanying period of adjustment. At the time the Department of Corrections contracted with Aramark to provide food services in Florida's prisons, Aramark had 90 days to comply. The company set up operations, hired staff, and opened 126 kitchens within this time frame -- an extraordinary effort.
We do not deny experiencing the kinds of difficulties you reported. In fact, the department faced many of the same challenges when operating food service; challenges such as food availability and excess food production for low inmate turnout. As we have done in the past, we are meeting these challenges head on. Aramark, too, is concerned and wants these issues resolved. The current contract allows us to assess fines and bill them for services not performed, which we have done and will continue to do.
Have there been problems serving 204,000 meals a day -- nearly 75-million meals a year? Sure. Do we expect no problems whatsoever with personnel or the ordering of food? Surely not. But now that we have reached the end of the first year of implementation, Aramark has gained knowledge and experience and they are committed to our Florida system. They will continue to improve, and we will continue to expect full contractual compliance and fine them for any failures.
What is critical now is to stop reckless rhetoric, including completely unfounded speculation about possible "food riots." I sincerely hope your editorial did not unwittingly exacerbate inmate anxiety or jeopardize safety.
Instead, I am confident that both inmates and staff are well aware that all concerns are being addressed professionally and that we are committed to proper food service for all inmates.
-- Michael W. Moore, secretary, Department of Corrections, Tallahassee
Re: Prisons need better food service, July 2.
I came across this editorial while eating a breakfast consisting of eggs over easy, hash browns, pancakes and sausage links. As a law-abiding citizen, I thought about how fortunate and normal it was to be able enjoy such a nice meal. Prison is a place of punishment. It's not a nice place to be. If prisons were nice places, their deterrent ability would be nullified. Prison food should be adequate but not nice. So what if their sloppy joes are a little runny? Mine are not, but then again, I am not being punished in prison.
-- J. Schlosser, Spring Hill
Re: Let's do more to help the poor get a college education, by Bill Maxwell, June 30.
I am sick and tired of hearing about people who "can't afford" to go to college. Since when is working a guarantee that a person cannot study and make it to class? Working full-time and going to school full-time has been accomplished by many people. And, as far as the fear of "excessive debt" goes, there is an alternative. Are people in this country not aware of the educational benefits offered through the U.S. military?
There are two very simple concepts people need to learn. First, use what is available. Second, you don't have to like it, you just have to do it. So stop wasting your time complaining and start doing whatever you need to do to get yourself through college.
-- Dave Giese, St. Petersburg
Re: Cooking the books, by David Wessell, June 30.
On reading Cooking the books, it was interesting to see references to Watergate and its affect on corporate management ethics and the "virulent cynicism about government" that it produced. This is all too true. It also mentioned how the downward spiral in ethics and increased greed for higher stock prices accelerated in the '90s, but it had no concrete speculations as to the base reasons for this. Could it have been that we had a president in the '90s who taught us the only important things in life are money and power? Who taught us that half-truths are still the truth, and even an outright lie is the truth depending on how you interpret it? I sincerely hope I am correct in thinking that our current president has higher ethical standards and principles that are more in line with those of the majority of Americans. Maybe that will help start mending some of the damage that has been done. It will be a big job, as bad habits are a lot harder to break than to fall into in the first place.
-- Tim Boyles, St. Petersburg
Re: Florida's deepest roots, by Jeff Klinkenberg, June 30.
I spent a delightful half-hour slowly reading, smiling and savoring Jeff Klinkenberg and Kinfay Moroti's beautifully crafted story about the old-timey small town Jacob, Fla.
In today's world of headline news: stock market disintegration, suicide bombers, drive-by shootings, corporate dishonesty and other similar fare, it is nice to know that caring communities like Jacob still exist. Reading about their lives is a refreshing tonic. Stories like Florida's deepest roots give us all some inspiration and a positive outlook for the day.
-- John Christy Clement, Tierra Verde
Re: Florida's deepest roots, by Jeff Klinkenberg, June 30.
Thank you for the lyrical biography of the residents and town of Jacob, Fla.
Once again, Jeff Klinkenberg brings to life a hidden part of this state that we wouldn't otherwise see. After reading the story, I felt that I had spent a day or two there. I don't have adequate words to describe how your work has touched my heart.
Thank you, Jeff, Alicia Caldwell, Cathy Wos and Kinfay Moroti for a refreshing break from the negative side of news.
-- Eliska Adema, Largo
Re: Fighting government land grabs, by Robyn Blumner, June 30.
Robyn Blumner states that the three worst things the government can do to you are: (1) take away your children, (2) take away your liberty, (3) take away your home or business.
She then states that when the government attempts to do either of the first two, it must first make a serious accusation against you -- either of criminality or abuse and neglect of a child -- and then must prove the allegations in a forum where the accused is generally guaranteed a lawyer and due process.
Unfortunately, this is not true when it comes to divorce/custody. The judge determines you are the NCP (non-custodial parent) in a forum where you are not allowed a jury trial, where you are not guaranteed a lawyer if you cannot afford one. The government then tells you how many "visits" you can have with your own children; the "norm" is four days a month. The government also tells you how much you must pay for your children.
I agree about the seriousness of the government land grabs, but it doesn't compare to the seriousness of the government stealing your children's rights to both parents.
-- Don Delaney, St. Petersburg
Re: Jewish voters noticing GOP's pro-Israel moves, by Philip Gailey, June 30.
Are not "Jewish voters" Americans? I never read of catering to other religions as far as courting voters. I am Lutheran; is there some politician looking for my vote?
Also, I never do understand why it is always the United States' job to settle things in the Middle East. We are being drawn deeper and deeper in this never-ending and never-settled conflict. Since Jimmy Carter in the '70s, every U.S. president has tried (with no visible results) to get these two countries to come to peaceful terms. The egos of the two leaders prevent the people from living normal lives.
Let's expend some of these energies here at home -- on our own problems.
-- Dorothy Karkheck, Dunedin