FAQ - Deprivatization
What is George W. Hill Correctional Facility?
George W. Hill Correctional Facility is also known as Delaware County Prison. It is the primary facility where adults are held after arrest, while awaiting trial, or when serving a county sentence of fewer than two years.
Who stays at George W. Hill Correctional Facility?
Many people held at the prison are family, friends, and neighbors from Delaware County. Additionally, many are residents of Philadelphia County as well as other neighboring counties. No full demographic breakdown is publicly available. We do know that 80% of those staying in the jail are awaiting trial and have not been convicted or sentenced.
According to the 2019 report issued by Phoenix Management Services, the average daily population was 1,807 in 2017, and the average length of stay was 42 days. 21% of the people entering George W. Hill undergo drug detox and a “significant number” are diagnosed with mental health issues. 86 pregnant women were admitted to the prison in 2017.
Who owns George W. Hill Correctional Facility?
Delaware County owns George W. Hill Correctional Facility.
Does the county manage prison operations at the facility?
No. Delaware County has the only county prison in the state of Pennsylvania that is managed by a private company. George W. Hill is managed by The GEO Group, Inc., a publicly-traded, for-profit corporation based in Florida. To manage the prison, Delaware County pays GEO Group over $50 million dollars per year under a five-year, $264 million contract signed in December 2018. This is the largest line item in the Delaware County budget and represents more than 20% of tax dollars collected by the county each year.
GEO Group generates an estimated $3.1 million of annual profit by operating George W. Hill Correctional Facility.
Did Delaware County Council sign the contract with GEO Group?
No. The Delaware County Board of Prison Inspectors (also known as the Prison Board) signed the contract and oversees GEO Group’s management of the prison. The Prison Board is comprised of five unelected members: three are appointed by the President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and two are appointed by Delaware County Council.
Did the County Council have any input into the Prison Board’s decision to sign a new contract with GEO Group?
No. The Prison Board oversees the contractor, governs all information that is released publicly about prison operations, and can sign contracts without any required accountability to the elected members of County Council or the County Executive. The Prison Board derives its authority from an 1839 law which was enacted when prisons were largely economically self-sustaining.
This is not the case in other counties in Pennsylvania. Delaware County operates by “home rule charter” and, as such, it is exempt from complying with Pennsylvania statute Title 61. Section 17 of Title 61 sets forth that each county will create a County Jail Oversight Board comprised of stakeholders such as the county sheriff, elected officials such as the county executive, and three members of the public. The County Jail Oversight Board would be vested with the power to make decisions about running the prison; however, it could not enter contracts and would have to come before County Council for approval.
You say that GEO Group manages “prison operations” at George W. Hill. What does that mean?
GEO Group’s responsibility includes, among other things, healthcare for inmates and staff, security, food service, maintenance and minor repairs, insurance and litigation costs. Many of the day-to-day operations are contracted out and handled by third-party vendors. Delaware County Council and other stakeholders have no say in how GEO Group spends the approximately $50 million allotted per the contract each year to handle the prison operations.
Delaware County pays above and beyond the contract for capital improvements and repairs above a certain dollar amount.
How does George W. Hill compare to other county prisons in Pennsylvania?
It’s hard to say. Phoenix Management Group attempted to quantify this in a report released to Delaware County in 2019 at a cost of $120,840. GEO Group limited Phoenix’s access to information about the operations of the prison despite numerous requests. Phoenix ultimately estimated that George W. Hill operations cost $76.53 per inmate per day. For comparison, Montgomery County, PA, spends only $53.31 per inmate per day to run a comparably-sized facility.
How can the prison be returned to public management without breaking the current contract with GEO Group?
The contract includes a clause allowing the Prison Board to at any point give GEO Group 180 days notice that they will end the contract.