The Keefe Group and the Role of Rules in Prisons

Every now and then I come across a news story that makes me take a step back. Those are the moments in life where you really wish you could talk to everyone involved. As I read a prisoner’s first hand account of life I just kept wanting to intervene. Because he was quite right in his complaints. He had a lot to say about a company called the Keefe Group. And while a bit hyperbolic, there was a lot of truth to it.


The prisoner was furious about the low quality of their meals. And it’s understandable why that’d be the case. He only had two options for food. Bland prison meals from the cafeteria, or purchases from the Keefe Group. The former isn’t really much of an option. It’s like telling people to try living on a vitamin pill and protein drink. It’ll keep one going. But there’s more to life than simple sustenance. Even more so for prisoners who are trying to turn their life around.


But on the Keefe Group’s side of things, there’s the issue of profit. It’s a company, and the role of a company is to turn a profit. That was the biggest problem that I saw when reading the article. Prisons are all about helping people see how the world works. Without exception, prisons are filled with people who suffer from basic misunderstandings about how society operates. So one would hope that they’d receive a proper education. But the people running things aren’t providing for those needs.


What I wish I could tell the people at the top of the prison system is that companies are always going to try for profit. They more than anyone should understand that you can’t trust in goodwill. But there’s a big difference between the Keefe Group and prisoners. The Keefe Group’s food quality won’t violate laws or contracts. It’s simply that they’ll take advantage of whatever those contracts allow.


The final truth is that prisons need to operate under an assumption that the Keefe Group doesn’t care about food quality and prisoner health. Because, frankly, that’s not their role in the prison system. They’re only there to fulfill food expectations laid down in contracts. The prison system itself needs to carefully word those contracts to ensure a basic level of quality. And more than that, they need to actually look into the prisoner’s health to make sure things are working OK.