County Council Votes NO on Prison Oversight Board

For the second time in six months, the Delaware County Council did not approve a motion to dissolve the current Board of Prison Inspectors and replace it with a more modern County Jail Oversight Board per Pennsylvania statute Title 61, Chapter 17 enacted in 2009. Councilmember Kevin Madden brought forward the resolution at the May 1, 2019 County Council meeting. After about a half hour of discussion, Chairman McBlain and Councilmembers Morrone and Culp voted against the motion.

The current Board of Prison Inspectors derives its authority from an 1839 law which was enacted when prisons were largely economically self-sustaining. As Councilmember Madden said, “We hand over to this prison board that is unelected a blank check for 30 percent of our budget in terms of how they decide what they do with the $50 million that they're given. It unilaterally sits in their hands. That makes no sense.” More than 20 DelcoCPR members and supporters attended the meeting, many holding signs encouraging councilmembers to approve the resolution. Watch this portion of the meeting in its entirety here:

Councilmember Madden introduced the resolution following the main agenda items, and the fact that this resolution was not on the agenda was a major sticking point in the discussions. Councilmember Morrone expressed her displeasure that the motion was brought forth without being on the agenda. Councilmember Madden explained that he spoke with Chairman McBlain during the previous week and requested that the Prison Oversight resolution be added to the agenda; however, it was not on the draft agenda released to councilmembers on Friday, April 26th. Councilmember Madden spoke with Chairman McBlain again on Monday about adding the item to the agenda, but was rebuffed. Councilmember Brian Zidek explained that he has had difficulty getting several items on the agenda in the past. The agenda is set by the County Clerk in consultation with the Council Chairman, and Chairman McBlain accused Councimember Zidek of wanting to add agenda items “for political purposes.”

The 2009 statute calls for a County Jail Oversight Board that consists of the president judge, elected officials, and members of the public. Councilmembers Morrone and Culp both hesitated to approve the motion without speaking first with President Judge Kevin Kelly, and wished to make all stakeholders aware of this change ahead of time. Councilmember Madden reminded the other councilmembers that they have had six months to raise this issue with stakeholders since the resolution was brought forward last November.

We strongly support the accountability and oversight that a new, modern County Jail Oversight Board would bring to George W. Hill Correctional Facility and especially GEO Group. It’s time for prison operations to be overseen by true stakeholders who will hold GEO Group accountable for their management of George W. Hill and how a huge chunk of our tax dollars are spent.

Read the meeting minutes:

Kathleen Carey of The Delco Times attended the meeting and we encourage you to read her report here: