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VOL. 39 | NO. 50 | Friday, December 11, 2015

Program to stop providing meals to Tennessee prisons

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Weeks after being blasted by state lawmakers for financial mismanagement, an inmate rehabilitation organization is planning to stop providing meals to Tennessee prisons.

Patricia Weiland, the CEO of Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction, or TRICOR, told The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1I40C0U) that the organization will be eliminating the multimillion-dollar program as part of a larger effort to improve TRICOR's business model and bolster its reputation.

TRICOR is a state agency that's independent from the Correction Department but provides millions of inmate-prepared meals to Tennessee prisons. It has employed about 60 inmates to run the Tennessee Cook Chill program - a small portion of the 1,250 to 1,350 offenders working in various TRICOR operations at any given time. The organization also employs 122 people as state workers, with roughly $5.3 million in annual payroll.

TRICOR plans to move the 60 Cook Chill positions to other parts of its business, Weiland said.

"We were very successful before Cook Chill; we'll be very successful after Cook Chill," Weiland said.

Lawmakers criticized TRICOR in October after an audit by the state comptroller concluded that the organization lost $4 million because it didn't have a written contract with the Department of Correction for meals. TRICOR thought the department would pay one price for the daily inmate meals, but the department actually paid a lower price.

"I just don't understand, being a CPA. I just have to admit I'm stunned," state Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, said to Weiland during the hearing. "This goes beyond carelessness."

The audit also raised concerns about the quality and size of meals provided.

TRICOR and the Department of Correction are working to extend their current contract to run through June 2016 to allow the department time to find a new food provider through a bidding process, Weiland said.

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