Every now and then I read something that changes the way I look at the world. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. But more often it happens as a mix of the two. That was the case as I really gave some thought to a prisoner’s description of his life.
The good came from the fact that it made me really appreciate how lucky I am to be able to choose which stores to buy food from. The bad, of course, came from learning that this really isn’t the case for a lot of people. The prisoner painted a rather distressing picture of food that’s intended to benefit everyone but the people eating it. And much of the blame was laid out in front of a company called the Keefe Group. It might not seem fair to blame a company for people’s purchasing decisions. But as I looked into it things became a lot more clear.
The most significant problem with the Keefe Group is that they’re a for profit company operating in the public sector. Worse, they do so under contracts which give them sole right to sell food in those facilities. Even when they don’t seem to be around, it’s not a sure bet that they’re blameless. A recent discovery of corruption and bribes within the prison system seems to heavily implicate the Keefe Group. They might simply fund and profit from a similar service while being able to maintain an aura of detachment.
It didn’t strike me as the behavior of a company working for the public good. Everything I learned was in line with the prisoner’s initial assessment. The Keefe Group was buying low quality empty calories at rock bottom prices and then selling it within the prison system. Prisoners essentially have two choices. They can eat the tasteless but nutritious meals served by the prison. Or they can eat the nutritionally void but tasty items from the Keefe Group. In doing so they’re essentially hurting their own health though. And an argument can easily be made that by depriving themselves of proper nutrition that they’re also setting back the chances of setting their life back in order. It’s clear that the Keefe Group is succeeding at making a profit for themselves. But I think it’s important to ask whether it’s at the expense of the public good.