Ex-kitchen worker pleads guilty to trying to smuggle heroin into Ionia prison

Ionia prison heroin smuggling

IONIA, MICH. - A former prison food worker faces up to a year behind bars after he pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle heroin into Ionia Correctional Facility.

Adrian Delgado, 27, of Portland, pleaded guilty Aug. 11 to drug and prison smuggling charges.

Ionia County Prosecutor Kyle Butler said Delgado, who worked for prison food contractor Trinity Services Group, showed up for work May 19, 2016, with .62 grams of heroin taped to his leg.

"We take these cases seriously," Butler said. "These types of cases affect the safety of corrections officers and the stablity of the institution."

There have been numerous such incidents since 2013, when the state switched to private contractors, who use lower-paid employees with high turnover, to provide prison food services.

Previous incidents of prison food workers caught with drugs include:

  • A Trinity food service worker at Cotton Correctional Facility near Jackson was fired and turned over to the Michigan State Police in September 2016, after a search as he reported to work that day turned up suspected drugs.
  • An Aramark Correctional Services  kitchen worker at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian was fired and banned from prison property in October 2014 on suspicion of smuggling marijuana into the prison.
  • A former Aramark worker pleaded guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court in March 2014 to attempting to smuggle two packages of marijuana into the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility near Jackson.
  • In September 2014, an Aramark worker was fired from St. Louis Correctional Facility, suspected of smuggling drugs, after five prisoners were found with heroin, marijuana, cocaine and tobacco.
  • Officials say problems have declined, but have continued, since Florida-based Trinity replaced Philadelphia-based Aramark in September 2015.

Though data comparing the number of drug smuggling cases involving prison kitchen workers before and after privatization, the Corrections Department has not disputed union assertions that such incidents were comparatively rare when state workers supervised the preparation and serving of meals by inmates.

The department, upon request, has released data on the number of "stop orders" issued to Trinity and Aramark employees, banning them from prison property for a range of offenses that can include smuggling of drugs or other contraband and over-familiarity with prisoners.

Trinity has had 161 of its Michigan prison employees "stop ordered" — banned from prison property for various violations, since it took over the contract, Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz said Friday.

Gautz didn't have a comparable figure for Aramark, but at the end of March, Trinity employees had received 132 stop orders. At the same point in its contract, Aramark workers had received 177 stop orders, he said.

Again, there isn't comparable data from when state workers were employed in the kitchen, because the department says it didn't track stop orders in the same way at that time.

But Ed Buss, a consultant the state hired to oversee the prison food contract, said in 2014 the numbers were dramatically lower prior to privatization, noting the state kitchen worker with the least seniority at one Michigan prison had been there 15 years when Aramark took over.

Delgado, who was  to stand trial last week, admitted in Ionia County Circuit Court he planned to deliver the heroin to an inmate, Butler told the Free Press.

Delgado is to be sentenced by Judge Ronald Schafer. A sentencing date has not been set.

Possession of cocaine with intent to deliver it is a 20-year felony, but Delgado's jail time is capped at 12 months under his plea agreement, Butler said.

Michael Honeywell, an Ionia attorney representing Delgado, declined comment Friday.

A Trinity spokesperson could not be reached for comment Friday.

"The department makes it a priority to search for contraband entering our facilities whether from visitors or state or contract employees," Gautz said. "Working inside a prison can be a dangerous job and that is only magnified when having to deal with a prisoner who is under the influence of narcotics." 

Aramark,   which replaced about 370 state kitchen workers in December 2013, ended its three-year, problem-plagued contract early and was replaced by Florida-based Trinity in 2015. Trinity, which replaced Aramark in September 2015, signed a three-year, $158.8-million contract, but is in line for a $4-million raise, based on inflationary increases and the number of meals served, officials said in March.

Gautz said that even with a $4-million increase, the contract will still be saving the state more than $11 million a year over what it cost to provide the same service with state employees. 

Since taking over the contract, Trinity has been hit with $2.1 million in fines for contract infractions such as unauthorized meal substitutions, delays in serving meals, inadequate staffing levels and sanitation issues, among other problems.

Anita Lloyd, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Corrections Organization, a union representing corrections officers, did not respond to an e-mail and phone call seeking comment.

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© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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