Partial quarantine at Jackson prison as more inmates fall ill

LANSING (Detroit Free Press) -- The Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson has been placed under partial quarantine with 150 prisoners now showing flu-like symptoms, up from 30 last weekend, and officials couldn't say today whether bad food is the cause of the outbreak.

The Free Press reported Monday that about 30 Parnall prisoners fell sick over the weekend with symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea after maggots were discovered Friday along a prison meal line — inches from the serving trays.

But Corrections Department spokesman Russ Marlan said today the number of sick prisoners has grown to about 150. In a partial quarantine, the sick prisoners are not being allowed visitors, and no prisoners are being moved in or out of the facility. Swabs have been taken from the sick prisoners and test results are awaited, he said.

Officials moved quickly on Friday to shut down the meal line and thoroughly clean the area. Karen Cutler, a spokeswoman for prison food contractor Aramark Correctional Services of Philadelphia, said there was no evidence linking the outbreak of illnesses with the discovery of maggots on the meal line.

"We continue to await the test results and have ordered a third-party auditor to visit every facility in the state to ensure they meet our safety and sanitation standards," Cutler said today.

Marlan said the department's chief medical officer said, "These types of illnesses usually relate back to food," but the department can't say for sure until more test results are available.

No prisoners have died or required hospitalization, he said.

On Wednesday, the Free Press reported that Warden Heidi Washington ordered Aramark to throw away potatoes in a kitchen storage area at the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center in Jackson on Tuesday after maggots were found in the potatoes. A thorough cleaning was ordered of the storage area.

Also today, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer called on Gov. Rick Snyder to terminate the three-year, $145-million contract with Aramark, which has been the subject of almost constant controversy since the contractor took over in December, eliminating 370 state jobs.

The outsourcing "has proven to be a serious mistake that is wasting millions of taxpayer dollars and putting the lives of our corrections officers at risk," Schauer said.

Incidents of Aramark workers attempting to smuggle marijuana and other contraband into prisons, showing up drunk, and getting overly friendly with inmates "pose a very serious risk to public safety," Schauer said in a news release.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or


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