Delaware County’s Jail Oversight Board Announces Termination of Contract with GEO Group Inc. to operate the prison



Delaware County Jail is in Concord.

By 6-2 votes on Tuesday, the Delaware County Jail Oversight Board decided to terminate its contract with GEO Group Inc. to manage the 1,883 inmate prison in Concord.

“It really comes down to what we think of as a prison in our society,” said Kevin Madden, chairman and county councilor. “If it’s just about storing people then it would probably be easiest to continue with a private operator … but if we believe in restorative justice, if we believe in salvation, if we believe we will all actually win” and ours Community is healthier when we help those struggling with drug addiction and mental health problems get the help they really need … then those goals are diametrically opposed to the interests of a for-profit company. “

Brian Corson, Jonathan Rahim King, County Executive Director Howard Lazarus, County Controller Joanne Phillips, County Sheriff Jerry L. Sanders and Madden voted in favor of resignation. Opponents included Common Pleas Court Judges John A. Whelan and Deborah Love. Common Pleas Court Judge Mary Alice Brennan was absent.

The measure will now be presented to the district council, which is expected to vote on it in the meeting next Wednesday.

With the same vote, the board also agreed to hire contractors for the provision of medical services, catering services, maintenance and commissioning services in the prison. Madden said the procurement staff is drafting the applications for the county council to see which contractors will receive those orders.

GEO Group Inc. first operated the George W. Hill Correctional Facility from 1998 to 2009 when Community Education Centers took over the contract. In 2017 GEO acquired CEC. In December 2018, the then-county Board of Prison Inspectors signed a five-year, $ 295 million contract with GEO that included a termination clause for the county that required 180-day notice. Delaware County officials believe the prison will be fully operational by April.

On Wednesday, GEO Group Inc. issued a statement regarding the decision of the board of directors.

“As Delaware County’s longtime partner as a contract management provider, we recognize the county’s legal authority to terminate its management contract with six months’ notice,” it said. “As mentioned several times, we do not dispute the authority of the county to terminate the contract, but we do dispute the misleading and misinformed results of the county’s financial and management analysis and any reasons for the termination that are unsound and politically motivated. We will work with the county to transfer management to the county so that they can outsource the services to several private companies. More importantly, we continue to ensure a safe environment for those we serve and those we employ during the transition period. “

Wednesday’s meeting summarized the results of the CGL study, which concluded earlier this year, including that de-privatization could save the county $ 3 million to $ 10 million annually.

It also noted that the transition cost for information technology, human resources, and CGL would be $ 1.37 million, plus another $ 8 million for equipment and furniture for new acquisitions and $ 14 million for capital improvements like the one Replacing the roof, updating the kitchen and camera system, perimeter and security upgrades, which are required regardless of the operator of the system.

That analysis found that the numbers were based on a full capacity prison and that a smaller population would generate more savings for the county. On Tuesday officials said the population was around 1,500.

Board members gave their views on their votes, including Love and Whelan, who expressed concern that information about services the county is withdrawing, including medical, food, commissariat and maintenance services, will not be shared with board members who are These decisions are entrusted with the production.

“I’m challenged to make some of these assumptions without the hard data behind them,” said Love.

Whelan agreed.

“I wish all of the information available to the advisors would be available in detail to the board,” he said, adding that assumptions are interpretable.

Whelan added that the most difficult facility in the world to run is a prison and continued, “If the GEO contract is terminated, will this county be ready to serve these dedicated people what they believe will be better services? It’s a very, very difficult task as we all know … I don’t know if we’re treating GEO fairly by not trying to fix some of the shortcomings that exist, but I understand I know the board is doing well trust. “

With this in mind, the judge said he believed the question was due to a philosophical difference as to whether or not a prison should be run privately or publicly.

“For me, it’s simply a matter of whether or not this decision will improve the lives of the residents of Delaware County Jail,” Whelan said. “And I’m just not convinced of it, but I undertake, regardless of the vote, to work regularly every month to improve the quality of care for these inmates.”

The chairman of the board said Delaware County wouldn’t be the first to run its own prison.

“Let’s not forget there are 67 counties in Pennsylvania,” Madden said. “Sixty-six of them use a public prison. We are not thinking of something that would reinvent the wheel, that has not already been invented a thousand times across the country … We are not inventing time travel here. This is nothing that has never happened before. “

Corson said in his comments that he started this process by being committed to both scenarios and noted that there had been successes under the GEO model.

“However, we can do better, and frankly we need to do better,” he said as an example of the challenges arising from expanding drug-assisted treatment in the facility. “In my experience, as a county under GEO, we would not be able to resolve issues such as additional drug abuse programs and support, better technology, more collaboration with our criminal justice system, more mental health resources, re-entry.” and for low wages for prison staff. “

He stated that the county has no authority to address these issues without a takeover.

Lazarus said his position is to make reasonable judgment based on the values ​​of the community.

He found that other counties pay their prison workers better, have less turnover, and have better working conditions, resulting in higher relapse and retention rates.

The majority opinion said it was time to take action on this matter.

“Delaware County stands ready to make this transition successfully,” said Madden. “And at this point there is a greater risk of staying with the current operator, which will erode the situation further than if you were to move forward. We are ready. And the thousands of our own members of our community, our parents and brothers and sisters and … neighbors who have fallen into a dark place in their lives are asking us to act now.

“As residents and taxpayers, we will also be better off with a county jail that focuses on reducing relapses and improving the health of our entire community rather than maximizing its profits,” he said.

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