Private Corrections Institute, Inc.

Decemner 2, 2002
The day Ellen Early walked into her first Diversity Roundtable meeting, she was confident and ambitious junior executive at Marriot Management Services.  An why not?  Her company, the Gaithersburg-based food and management service conglomerate, was pairing mid-level minority employees with senior white executives who would show them how to ascend the corporate ladder.  Seven years later, when Early walked into the office of a Washington law firm, she was an embittered former Marriot employee whose dreams of success had evaporated.  The Diversity Roundtable, she had concluded, was a sham, designed to appease blacks without delivering the positions they sought, the ones with bigger paychecks, stock options and company cars.  What Early and dozen other black managers at the 100,000-employee company, now known as Sodexho Inc., started that day in 1999 has become one of the nation's largest class-action race discrimination suits as well as an uneasy story of its era.  The plaintiffs allege that Sodexho has a "pattern and practice" of denying blacks promotions and deserved advancements.  (Washington Post)

August 29, 2002
In simpler times, university students rarely accused campus food-services suppliers of anything worse than serving lumpy mashed potatoes.  But Sodexho Alliance SA, a global food-service company that feeds students on more than 900 U.S. campuses, faces a much trickier complaint.  The French company has been the target during the past three years of a campaign by student activists on dozens of U.S. campuses who object to Sodexho's involvement in managing prisons.  Feeding college students ia a core business for Sodexho, while prison-related activities account for about 1% of annual revenue.  Yet Sodexho is refusing to back down.  Although it has sold its stake in a U.S. prison operator, Sodexho is quietly expanding its prison businesses elsewhere in the world.  Sodexho's two big global competitors, Britain's Compass Group PLC and U.S. based Aramark Corp., both provide food service to prisoners but don't manage prisons.  In 1994, Sodexho bought a stake in Corrections Corp. of America, a big U.S. operator of prisons.  That link to American prisons inflamed passions on U.S. campuses, and Sodexho sold the stake last year.  Sodexho still manages prisons in Britain and Australia and is helping to develop new ones in Chile.  It also hopes to bid for further prison contract in Germany and Portugal.  In Australia, Sodexho has run afoul of government officials on two contracts.  The Victoria state government two years ago took control of a women's prison at Deer Park after finding the operator, a company then 50%-owned by Sodexho, "was failing fundamental security and drug-prevention.  Since then, Sodexho has acquired 100% of the Australian company, known as AIMS.  Sodexho's AIMS unit also has drawn fire for its handling of a contract under which it transports prisoners between jails and courtrooms in Western Australia.  The state's inspector of custodial services said in a report in October that prisoners sometimes suffered unnecessary hardships during transport, including stifling heat and inadequate toilet facilities in vans.  Mr. Pranis argues that governments imprison too many people instead if finding alternatives.  For-profit prisons, he says, create a powerful lobby to build more of them.  "These companies depend on a steady flow of bodies to keep going," Mr. Pranis says.  (Wall Street Journal)


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