Delaware County Jail Oversight Board decides to terminate contract with GEO Group Inc. for the operation of the prison
By a 6-2 vote on Tuesday, the Delaware County Jail Oversight Board offered to terminate the contract with GEO Group Inc. for the management of the county jail of 1,883 inmates at Concord.
“Basically it comes down to what we envision as the role of a prison in our society,” said Kevin Madden, chairman of the board and county councilor. “If it’s just about storing humans, then, you know, the easiest thing would probably be to continue with a private operator… and our community is healthier when we help people with problems. addiction and mental health problems to getting the help they really need… then those goals are diametrically opposed to the interests of a for-profit business.
Those who voted for the termination included Brian Corson, Jonathan Rahim King, County Executive Director Howard Lazarus, County Comptroller Joanne Phillips, County Sheriff Jerry L. Sanders and Madden. Opponents included Common Plea Court Judge John A. Whelan and Deborah Love. Common Pleas Judge Mary Alice Brennan was not present.
The measure will now be submitted to the county council, which is expected to vote on it at the meeting next Wednesday.
By the same vote, the board of directors also agreed to move on to hiring contractors to provide medical services, catering services, maintenance services and commissary services to the prison. Madden said the purchasing staff were in the process of developing the motions the county council would consider in terms of which contractors would be awarded these contracts.
GEO Group Inc. first operated 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, which included a termination clause for the county requiring 180 days’ notice. Delaware County officials plan to make full use of the prison by April.
GEO Group Inc. released a statement on Wednesday following the board’s decision.
“As long-time partners with Delaware County as a contract management provider, we recognize the county’s legal authority to terminate its management contract with six months’ notice,” it read. . “As stated earlier on several occasions, we do not challenge the county’s power to terminate the contract, but we challenge the misleading and misinformed findings of the county’s financial and management analysis, as well as any grounds for termination that are unfounded. and politically motivated. We will work in cooperation with the county to transfer management to the county so that it can outsource services to several private entities. Most importantly, we will continue to ensure a safe environment for those we serve and those we employ throughout the transition period. “
At Wednesday’s meeting, findings from the CGL study completed earlier this year were summarized, including that the county could realize annual savings of $ 3 million to $ 10 million through deprivatization.
He also noted that the transition costs for IT, human resources and CGL would be $ 1.37 million, plus an additional $ 8 million for equipment and furniture if purchased. new ones and $ 14 million for upgrades like roof replacement, kitchen and camera system updates, perimeter and security upgrades that are needed no matter who operates the facility.
This analysis indicated that the numbers were based on a full capacity prison and that a smaller population would mean more savings for the county. Officials on Tuesday 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 was resuming, including medical care, food, commissary and maintenance, were not shared with council members who are accused of making these decisions.
“To make some of these assumptions without the hard data behind them, I’m challenged to do so,” Love said.
“I want all information available to consultants to be available to the board in detail,” he said, adding that the assumptions are subject to interpretation.
Adding that the most difficult institution in the world to run is a prison, Whelan continued, “If the GEO contract is terminated, is this county ready to provide what it thinks are better services for these committed people? This is a very, very difficult task as we all know… I don’t know if we are treating GEO fairly by not trying to fix some of the flaws that exist but I understand, I know the board is acting good Faith. “
With that in mind, the judge said he believed the question boiled down to a philosophical difference as to whether a prison should be run privately or publicly.
“For me, it’s just a question of whether or not this decision is going to improve the lives of residents of the Delaware County Jail,” Whelan said. “And, I’m just not convinced that’s the case, but I pledge, regardless of the vote, to work steadily, every month, to improve the quality of care for these inmates.”
The chairman of the board said Delaware County would not be the first to operate its own jail.
“Let’s not forget that there are 67 counties in Pennsylvania,” Madden said. “Sixty-six of them use a public prison. We are not envisioning something here that would reinvent the wheel that has not already been invented thousands of times across the country… We are not inventing time travel here. It is not something that has not been done before.
Corson in his comments said he started this process by engaging in both scenarios, noting that there have been successes under the GEO model.
“However, we can do better and quite frankly we need to do better,” he said, giving an example of the challenges faced with expanding drug-assisted treatment programs at the facility. “In my experience, under GEO, we as a county would be unable to address issues like additional addiction programs and support, better technology, greater collaboration with our criminal justice system, more resources for mental health, reintegration. and for the low salaries of correctional staff.
He noted that the county does not have the power to resolve these issues without a takeover.
Lazare said he viewed his position as one of a judgment based on the values of the community.
He noted that other counties offered better pay to their prison staff, had less turnover and had better working conditions, resulting in better rates of reoffending and staff retention.
The majority opinion said now is the time to take action on this issue.
“Delaware County is poised for this transition to be successful,” Madden said. “And, at this point, there is more risk in staying with the current operator, allowing the situation to erode more than to move forward. We are ready. And the thousands of our own members of our community, our parents, our siblings and… our neighbors who have fallen into a dark place in their lives, they are asking us to act now.
“As residents and taxpayers, we will also be better off with a county jail that laser-focuses on reducing recidivism and improving the health of our entire community instead of maximizing its profits,” a- he declared.