Allen County Commissioners approve contract with Florida-based firm; already contracted with local juvenile system

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Better food options are a big reason the Allen County Jail is going with a new vendor.

The Allen County Commissioners Friday unanimously approved a three-year contract with Trinity Services Group that begins July 1.

The contracted price per meal varies with the jail population. The greater the population, the lower the cost.

Per meal price for between 600 and 649 inmates will cost $1.65 the first year, $1.72 for the second year and $1.82 for the third.

If the inmate population were to reach 950, cost per meal would decrease to $1.40 for the first year, then $1.48 and lastly, $1.55, according to the cost proposal form submitted.

Trinity Services Group, based in Oldsmar, Florida, was chosen out of three bidders, but Spencer Feighner, attorney for the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, said Trinity’s proposal contained perks and a “great” track record with ACJC – Allen County Juvenile Center

One perk is a $50,000 capital fund for equipment upgrades that will allow the jail to upgrade some of the jail ovens. The company is also offering a higher rate of pay for its employees that will attract better candidates, Feighner said.

But the greatest perk for inmates and their families is likely to be the “improved online ordering for the family members of inmates,” Feighner said. “If they want to send their family members individual meals, pizza, burgers, things like that, they have the opportunity to do so.

“It’s an a la carte ordering system, we’re looking forward to rolling out and providing to our inmates in our facility,” Feighner added.

Trinity replaced Tiger Commissary Services out of Jonesboro, Arkansas. Tiger’s price per meal from May 2020 to May 2021 was $1 for an inmate population between 600 to 649, but dipped to 99 cents per meal when the population hit 700 inmates, according to the agreement.

Today’s inmate population was 633.

“It sounds like it’s going to be a lot better and the inmates are going to be a lot happier with the food that we provide. That’s why we switched. It’s to provide them a better meal. We felt at this time that Trinity was a better food service for the inmates,”  Allen County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Gary Grant said.

Last year, the meal price was $1.15 per meal, Feighner said. Prior to Tiger, the food vendor was Summit Food Service based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who charged approximately $1 per meal, according to records sent to WANE 15.

Confinement officers can also take advantage of jail meals at no charge, but will have to pay for extra options or additional food, Assistant Jail Commander Mark Sickafoose said. Tiger charged $1 for staff meals, but Grant said the department decided to swallow the cost.

Feighner said the higher prices reflect higher commodity prices and higher personnel costs.

With the current food service, inmate families have reported difficulty ordering online meals that come at high prices, like $25 for a cheeseburger.

“Sometimes they don’t get them at all,” said a mother who asked not to be identified for privacy reasons. “You’re never guaranteed they’re going to get them, if they’re on lockdown or in trouble in any way. Then the guards just eat them. That’s what I was told.”

Prices for the a la carte system were not divulged. The food service is different than the jail commissary.

“They are providing, we think and we hope, a higher level of service than we’ve had in the past,” Feighner said.