Middletown will pay more to feed jail inmates, and some officials aren’t happy

Middletown City Council unanimously approved amending the city’s jail food contract, but some are upset about the costs despite the lower jail population due to coronavirus pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Middletown City Jail population has dropped dramatically to about a dozen inmates. The vendor, Summit Food Service, requested a per-week increase because it has suffered substantial financial loss.

Summit requested $2,500 per week while the jail population was under 50 inmates retroactive to March 22 when jail population decreased drastically due to COVID-19. That amount would feed about 50 inmates, according to city officials.

The vendor was the only company in 2017 that submitted a bid and was awarded the contract. The city jail provides three meals per day to about 60 inmates under normal conditions.

The city agreed to a flat payment of $2,520 per week while the jail population is 50 inmates or less. Once the jail population goes back up to normal, the city would pay the usual amount of $2.40 per meal.

Summit will prepare enough food for 50 inmates, and any leftover food will be donated. Acting City Manager Susan Cohen said the city will work with non-profit organizations for donations.

Cohen said that without the additional payment, the city runs the risk of Summit exercising its 90-day notice of contract cancellation. The contract expires this year.

She also said the company was unwilling to make any compromises and her fear is that the prices will only increase with more waiting.

The contract amendment was tabled two weeks ago as council asked Cohen for other options to consider.

“It definitely feels like the city is being bullied and taken advantage by a contractor who has a monopoly on small jails and who seems to want out of that business,” Mayor Nicole Condrey said. “It feels like the vendor should have known what his break-even point was and put it in the contract. It’s disgusting to me we’re bailing out a company.”

The Middletown City Jail is one of five municipally operated, full-service jails in the state. While the 44-year-old jail’s general housing capacity is 70 inmates, the state’s recommended number of inmates that can be held is 39, which was the approximate daily inmate population in 2019. For 2020, the city has budgeted $1.31 million to operate the 36-cell jail with up to 40 inmates per day.

The council and city staff have discussed the possible closing of the jail over the years but have not decided. It has also been a campaign issue in recent council elections.

Vice Mayor Joe Mulligan suggested the city look at developing an agreement with the Butler County or Warren County jails to increase buying power for jail food contacts.

BY THE NUMBERS: Middletown City Jail

$1.31 million - Amount budgeted to operate the jail in 2020, up 3.2 percent over 2019 budget

9,391 - Square footage of the Middletown City Jail

2014 - The last time the Middletown City Jail was “compliant” since changes in state mandates that year

100 - Percentage of compliance with essential standards of Ohio Minimum Jail Standards per 2018 inspection

90- Percentage of compliance with important standards of Ohio Minimum Jail Standards per 2018 inspection

70 - Jail’s total actual general housing capacity

40 - Number of inmates housed daily under the 2020 budget

39.3 - Average daily population of inmates at the jail Jan. 1 through Aug. 31, 2019

34 - State recommended number of inmates to be housed there

32 - Number of individual cells

5 - Middletown is one of five Ohio municipalities that operate a full-service jail

4 - Number of holding cells

2 - Number of important standards that were non-compliant in the Ohio Minimum Jail Standards/2018 inspection

1 - Trustee room


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