Complaints, inspections expose unsafe food at Clark County Detention Center and you pay for it

Dirty Dining Jail Edition

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - You can't eat there, but you pay the bills for everyone who does. Each week we receive the inspection reports from the Southern Nevada Health District and were surprised to learn about the conditions in the kitchen at the Clark County Detention Center.

Hopefully most of us will never eat at the Clark County Detention Center. Even though it only serves inmates, the kitchen there has standards just like any restaurant that's open to the public. And on April 17, CCDC got a 38 demerit C grade. The most demerits for any place inspected by the Southern Nevada Health District that week.

"If you're out at a restaurant with your friends or family, or if you're serving time at the detention center, you should be able to know that your food is safe. Inmates have rights and we have to respect that they're humans at the end of the day the same as the rest of us," explained Tod Story, Executive Director of ACLU Nevada.

What was found inside the jail kitchen?

CCDC's downgrade started with a complaint detailing dirty serving trays coated with stuck on food from previous meals. In addition to:

  • Rotten and spoiled fruit
  • Juice containers with mildew
  • Lint and hair particles
  • Lack of nutritional value
  • Food temperatures too cold

Click here to read the complaint report

The Health District validated the complaint and also found sandwiches that were being served past a 7-day shelf life. The inspection report noted that CCDC was not in compliance with multiple repeat critical and major violations.

"It's appalling, frankly, what has happened there," Story added.

Repeat violations included:

  • Black mold and pink slime in ice machines
  • Multiple fruit flies throughout the facility
  • No sanitizer
  • Food debris on meat slicers in clean storage

Click here to read the inspection report

What's the cost to you the taxpayer?

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department runs the jail but they have a contract with Aramark for food service. That contract costs taxpayers $4.5 million dollars per year. It could be more if health standards for inmates are not met.

"If their health is being harmed because of the food that they're consuming, we're then liable.  We're on the hook for that," Story explained.

This isn't the first problem for Aramark when it comes to inmate food service. In February the Detroit Free Press reported that the state of Michigan would be ending its four-year experiment with Aramark to privatize prison food service. The newspaper's investigation documented years of problems including maggots in food and smuggling by kitchen employees.

Here is Aramark's response:

Serving safe, nutritious and quality food is our top priority.  We take these matters very seriously and immediately addressed and corrected the issues found during the inspection. We also took added step of engaging an independent third-party auditor to objectively evaluate our practices and ensure the utmost safety in our operations.
Also, as far as your claims regarding Michigan….I can clarify it for you:
Aramark’s Corrections business is the target of criticism by special interest groups opposed to privatization. Organized campaigns include many unfounded allegations about the quantity and quality of our services. Among these baseless claims have been allegations of pest infestation. There has never been an infestation of any kind in Aramark food served in Corrections facilities.        
Beyond creating thousands of local jobs in service to these facilities, Aramark has delivered hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer savings to counties and states that are used to provide vital services and infrastructure for citizens. In addition, we have helped rehabilitate millions of offenders through our IN2WORK vocational training, which has earned a National Governors Award for Public Private Partnerships. The program has helped reduce recidivism by as much as 30 percent in some cases.   

LVMPD says that Aramark has not met its obligations or expectations and is being held accountable. Here's the full statement from Captain Fred Meyer, Detention Services Division:

Hi Darcy,
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today regarding recent issues with contracted food service operations at the Clark County Detention Center. First and foremost, please let me assure you that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Detention Services Division is absolutely committed to ensuring the safety, security and well-being of all staff and inmates in each of our detention facilities.  It's important to know that we have not experienced substantial unrest due to food quality or quantity at CCDC. We have high expectations in order to prevent issues.
Aramark is the current vendor providing food service operations at both the Clark County Detention Center and North Valley Complex. The loss of an “A” rating in any area of our detention facilities is absolutely unacceptable. Aramark management is being held accountable in-person and via contract, to include liquidated damages for their loss of rating.
The Clark County Detention Center is committed to setting the standard for American jails. We provide facility security, conduct audits and hold regular meetings with Aramark management to assist them and ensure they remain in compliance with their contractual obligations. Aramark did not meet those obligations and our expectations were not met during our audits or the recent inspection by the Southern Nevada Health District.
At this time, I have received assurances from Aramark management that all problems that resulted in demerits have been addressed and corrected. Our internal audit team toured the kitchen as well and it’s currently projected that the areas in question will be re-inspected by the Southern Nevada Health District next week. It’s our firm expectation that all areas will return to an “A” rating at that time.
I’m committed to ensuring that our contracted food services vendor provides safe and healthy meals at our detention facilities. We will be following up with additional facility audits to hold the vendor accountable.

The Clark County Detention Center kitchen was inspected again on May 8 and their A grade was reinstated.


58 photos from the original inspection report can be viewed in the media player above.

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