My job forces me to skip lunch on a pretty frequent basis. And one thing that I’ve noticed from the experience is how my overall performance drops. It’s not a huge deal since it’s only a few work hours per week. But when I read an article about the prison system I couldn’t help but draw some connections.
The article’s author didn’t specifically focus on the issue of performance. Instead he was more concerned with obvious problems with the food he, and his fellows, were served. But it was the issue of performance that kept coming back to me.
The oddest thing about this situation is that it’s not really a direct choice by the prison system. Instead it’s coming from something called the Keefe Group. From what I can see it all began when the prison system noted issues with their food service. All well and good, and one would hope that could drive positive change. But it’s not really what happened.
Instead they contracted out with a private corporation to serve food in prisons. The vast majority of prisons are using the Keefe Group. Over the years they’ve formed some deep bonds. To the point where they don’t even compete for contracts anymore. It’s just handed to them by prisons. And that’s the biggest issue.
The Keefe Group doesn’t really have to compete. They have no incentive to provide high quality meals to prisoners. At least in an economic sense. And the results are as one would expect. They ended up selling the lowest quality food at the highest price point they could manage.
But my hope is that the Keefe Group really considers what they’re doing. Reading the raw emotion in the article drove home that real people are suffering. Worse, these are all people who are going to be introduced back into society at some point. Prison is supposed to calm them down and give them a chance to be their best self.
The Keefe Group needs to consider the fact that these prisoners are going to end up back in the community. And their integration is in large part due to how well they can reflect on things. In turn, that performance depends as much on food quality as lunch does to mine. They need to be well fed if there’s real hope for rehabilitation. And it’s up the the Keefe Group to aid in that process. Because if they don’t, prisons might finally decide to sever those contracts.