Letter to the Editor - Reply to John Hosier

The following letter was written by Nelson V. Vecchione, member of DelcoCPR’s Leadership Team and Storytelling Committee, as a reply to John Hosier’s guest column and appeared in The Delco Times on May 6, 2019.

To the Times:

Chairman of the County Prison Board, John Hosier’s “guest columnist” letter appearing in the Delco Times on April 16, 2019, extolled the virtues of the recently released Phoenix Management Report and its subject, the George W. Hill Correctional Facility (GWHCF). His letter was unfortunately myopic, neglectful of important facts, and in many ways self-serving.

Mr. Hosier’s letter rightly points out that GWHCF is “in no way responsible for the condition people are in when they arrive at the facility.” He is correct about this, but he fails to understand that George W. Hill Correctional Facility is deeply responsible for the condition inmates are in when they leave the facility. He conveniently neglects to mention this. I have spent the last two years talking with former inmates, family members of inmates, and ex-employees of GWHCF and not a single person told me they were better off when they left the facility or that they had gotten the help they felt they needed to address their issues and problems.

He goes on to offer a disclaimer that George W. Hill Correctional Facility is “not responsible for how long inmates remain in the facility,” that this is the purview of other county law enforcement agencies. Once again, he neglects to mention that GWHCF’s administrative and disciplinary procedures often result in “write-ups” for inmates that interfere with their release and lengthen their stay at the facility. This translates into more dollars and cents for GEO Group, the facility owner/operator.

Chairman Hosier also touts the large savings and smooth working relationship being realized by the current public/private partnership between the county and GEO Group. He echoes the Phoenix Report’s dire prediction that transitioning back to county control could be accompanied by large cost increases in areas of operations, personnel/HR and liability exposure.

Also not imagined by Chairman Hosier are the vast improvements that could be made at GWHCF if the currently estimated $3.1 million dollars of annual profit generated by GEO Group by operating this facility could be repurposed from profit to rehabilitative programming, mental health and drug and alcohol treatment and brick and mortar facility upgrades.

Perhaps Chairman Hosier’s most glaring and self-serving oversight is his failure to mention that this report, which cost in excess of $120,000, blatantly makes note of two crucial facts: 1) Evaluators were unable to obtain crucial historical cost and operational data because GEO Group refused to supply it and 2) Phoenix Management makes no warranties about the accuracy of their report or its conclusions. Given these facts, in my estimation, the Phoenix Management Report is an “evaluatory air biscuit” and should not be relied upon to make future contractural agreements with GEO Group.

Finally, some of the important things rarely discussed about the inmate population of GWHCF deserve to be mentioned. 1) The vast majority of inmates there are either still awaiting trial (they have been charged with offenses, but not found guilty), and they cannot afford to bail themselves out or 2) They are there for minor technical parole or probation violations.

Regardless of what brings inmates, employees and family members to our county jail, they are our family members, sons, daughters, husbands and wives and we are all responsible to ensure that they receive safe, effective, dignified and humane treatment while there. Under this current arrangement, this set of circumstances does not exist.