A French multinational food services and facilities management company. Operates prisons in Australia and the UK.
Sodexo Group is one of the largest food services and facilities management companies in the world. Founded in 1966, it is headquartered in Issy-les-Moulineaux, a suburb of Paris, France. Sodexo operates in 72 countries and employs approximately 430,000 people. Its 2018 revenues were $23.75 billion. The company's main business is providing on-site services such as food, security, site management, and maintenance for institutions ranging from hospitals and schools to military bases and prisons. The company operates in North America through its wholly-owned subsidiary Sodexo, Inc., headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Its U.S. operations account for 43 percent of its global activities.
Sodexo operates private prisons in the UK and Australia through its subsidiary Sodexo Justice Services. In Australia, the company operates since 2016 the Melaleuca prison, a maximum-security women’s prison which is one of two privately-operated prisons in the state of Western Australia. A government 2018 report found significant problems with conditions in the prison. In the UK, Sodexo operates four out of the fourteen privately-operated prisons in the country, and there have been repeated reports of abuse, neglect, and torture in these prisons as well:
- Bronzefield adult and youth female prison - In 2018, Sodexo was accused of neglect and systemic failures resulting in the death of four women in its Bronzefield prison. An official 2013 report described how a woman held at Bronzefield was kept segregated from other prisoners in an “unkempt and squalid” cell for more than five years, and ruled this as “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment,” which “appears to amount to torture.”
- Forest Bank adult and youth male prison - In 2016, public outcry following the surfacing of a video of prisoners incarcerated in Forest Bank pretending to be dogs, prompted an investigation into the company’s practices.
- Northumberland adult male prison - Persistent reports include complaints about dangerously low staffing, assaults, drug smuggling, and deaths of people incarcerated in the prison. A 2017 BBC documentary revealed that Northumberland prison had “descended into chaos, with failing alarms, prisoners calling the shots and a troubling drug problem sweeping its corridors.”
- Peterborough female and male adult prison - In 2019, the UK Ministry of Justice criticized Sodexo for failing to prevent repeated and systemic breaches of the human rights of women held at the Peterborough prison. These breaches included repeated humiliating strip-searches at the jail, including of menstruating and transgender prisoners.
Beyond operating private prisons, Sodexo provides a host of community corrections services around the world, including work programs in prisons and private probation services. On its website in 2017, the company listed operations at 22 prisons in eight countries across five continents.
Sodexo’s involvement in the prison industry began in 1994, when the company bought a twenty percent stake of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), now CoreCivic, one of the world’s largest private prison companies. The two companies formed joint ventures to operate private prisons in Australia and the UK: Corrections Corporation of Australia Pty. Ltd. and U.K. Detention Services Limited. In 2000, Sodexo bought CCA’s stake in these two companies, making them wholly-owned subsidiaries of Sodexo. In the following year, Sodexo sold its stake in CCA, following mounting pressure by student activists on many U.S. campuses, including several U.S. universities canceling their food services contracts with the company.
In the U.S., Sodexo’s services are mainly dedicated to food service for public institutions, including prisons, schools, universities, hospitals, elderly care facilities, government agencies, the military, and oil and gas drilling sites. Sodexo provides food services to 31 U.S. Marine mess halls and was also a food supplier for the U.S military during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002. The company provides dining services to more than 850 higher education institutions in the U.S. and Canada.