Residents and advocacy groups in Delaware County want officials to end their contract with private prison operator GEO Group Int and take back control.
The Delaware Council comes under intense heat. Individuals and prison reform groups want an end to its relationship with the GEO Group Int.
GEO manages the county’s George W. Hill Correctional Facility and its contract with the county is about to expire. County residents and pressure groups do not want county officials to renew the contract. They want the control of the prison to come under county management again.
The GEO Group once managed the prison facility for 11 years before Community Education Centers (CEC) took over in 2009. CEC operated the facility for nine years until it was acquired by GEO last year.
Meanwhile, CEC’s contract with the Delaware Council comes to an end by December. Now, if the county sacked GEO once, and GEO ends up buying the county’s new hire CEC, how does the county hope to reign in GEO’s profiteering activities if they are hired again to manage the county’s prison facility?
Many people in the county believe GEO is positioning itself to get stuck in the council’s throat. To avoid a situation where the county will be helpless at properly managing its incarcerated citizens for another decade, residents and groups think it is best to cut all ties with the profit-driven GEO.
“I come before you tonight to ask that you discontinue the county’s contract with the GEO management group at the George Hill Correctional Facility,” Diane Simon, a resident of Upper Chichester told county council. “I’m asking you to end the contract with them and change your mindset about how this county will deal with its incarcerated citizens.”
With $50 Million in Taxpayers’ Money for Prison Management, Residents Believe They Have a Say
County Council Chairman John McBlain agreed terminating the county’s dealings with GEO is always a possibility. He will wait for the Phoenix Management report before making a final decision.
This report, according to Prison Board Solicitor Robert DiOrio, will be ready at the end of this month. The Phoenix report is expected to be an “operational analysis, a cost analysis, a quantitative analysis of the operations of the jail.”
McBlain and DiOrio say they look forward to comparing the data in the report with information on how other neighboring counties manage their own prisons. Considering up to $50 million is budgeted for prison management in the county, almost everyone of importance thinks they must lend their voice in how the George W. Hill Correctional Facility is managed.
In fact, many feel it is high time the county council and the Board of Prison Inspectors hold a joint public meeting over the issue.
“I do not like the indirect nature of the way the prison board is currently managed,” said County Councilman Kevin Madden. “I don’t think it’s the right model.”
County Residents and Prison Reform Advocates Propose Desired Changes
Chester Councilwoman Elizabeth Williams made it clear it is up to all the moms and dads in Delaware County to ensure all locked up family and friends are medically fit in their jails.
She lamented at tales of woes from parents who report their incarcerated loved ones who have medical issues lack medications for several weeks.
A former inmate and a member of the Delaware County Coalition for Prison Reform, Gwendolyn McCullough of Havertown cried several prisoners are housed in cells without toilets.
Diane Simon urged county officials to intervene in the situations of very ill inmates at the prison facility.
She said the council should set up programs that will aid the inmates to change their thinking. So they live better lives after prison with little chances of recidivism.
“You have people sitting in jail because they are poor,” Simon said. “Is poverty a crime in Delaware County? And, if it isn’t, then why are we housing people who can’t pay their bill? Ending the contract with GEO Group would sow citizens that you have heard their concerns and understand what is needed to achieve social justice in this county. The GEO Group wants profits, not rehabilitation.”