Nearly 500 non-violent, low-level offenders who were held at George W. Hill Correctional Facility have been saved from the deadly coronavirus disease that made its way into the fortified private prison, Your Content is first to report.
Delaware County Councilman Kevin Madden, who serves as Chair of the County’s Jail Oversight Board, joined District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer in praising the collaborative efforts of the Delaware County Courts, Law Enforcement Agencies and the Criminal Defense Bar in working together to responsibly reduce the inmate population of the George W. Hill Correctional Facility during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We are living through a public health crisis that impacts public safety in a profound way,” said Councilman Madden. “While we have had positive tests for the virus among both the staff and the inmate population, we have taken steps, led by our partners at the Chester County Health Department, to mitigate the dangers,” Madden continued. “One obvious way to mitigate the spread of the virus is to reduce the inmate population as much as practical while maintaining public safety. A reduced headcount allows staff more operational flexibility to prevent the spread of the virus. As of yesterday, the inmate population is down to 1,387, an historic low compared to the benchmark of 1,880. This is the result of the coordinated efforts of every branch of our criminal justice system.”
The building is owned by Delaware County but managed and operated by The GEO Group, a ruthless Florida-based company that claims to specialize in privatized corrections, detention, and mental health treatment. They maintain facilities in North America, Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
I’d be screaming to let my clients out, as this could be a death sentence.’ Philadelphia defense attorney A. Charles Peruto, Jr. previously told Your Content.
“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in our county, our criminal justice system has responded to this public safety crisis by prioritizing public health,” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said. “My office is working collaboratively with the Courts and the Criminal Defense Bar on the following measures we have implemented to reduce the jail’s inmate population without jeopardizing public safety:
» Expedited plea bargains for nearly 100 individuals this week sentenced to time served;
» Expedited video conference hearings this week for more than 50 inmates incarcerated for violations of probation or parole;
» Created an early parole program initiated by the President Judge.
» Created a Re-parole Review Program initiated by the President Judge as part of the Court’s intensive review program to see if persons incarcerated for probation violations are eligible for early release.
» Issued a standing recommendation from the District Attorney to all Magistrate Judges for release on own recognizance (ROR) bail for all new arrestees who do not present a threat to the community.
» The Court suspended the partial confinement program for low level offenders.
» In an effort to mitigate the isolation of inmates due to reduced visitation during the pandemic, each inmate is now permitted two free phone calls a week.
“Going forward, until the conclusion of the crisis, in order to keep the wheels of justice moving forward, our Courts have scheduled expedited video hearing lists for inmates and their attorneys, and our office will remain open to accept guilty pleas and handle arraignments,” Stollsteimer continued.
“Everyone involved in these decisions is acutely aware of the need to strike the right balance between ensuring public safety while simultaneously ensuring the safety of defendants, their attorneys, and the staff that oversees the criminal justice system in Delaware County,” Stollsteimer stated.
Your Content told you first … prison officials in Delaware County are scrambling to figure out a plan after nearly one dozen inmates have been quarantined inside the prison due to a coronavirus outbreak stemming from an infected prison guard on Mar. 13. The outbreak marked the world’s first reported prison coronavirus spread.
“On March 13, we received confirmation that an employee at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility has tested positive for COVID-19,’ a statement issued by the GEO Group Inc., the private firm that operates the 1,883-inmate prison, read on Friday night. “We believe that a family member of the employee, who works in Montgomery County and who also tested positive for the coronavirus, had contact with an individual who recently traveled to China.”
Despite the coronavirus situation and in the midst of the outbreak, GEO executives informed local media they intend to skip town on Dec. 2020, forcing county officials to make emergency arrangements with little notice.
The District Attorney and the Criminal Investigations Division remind anyone in Delaware County who observes suspicious activity to call 911 immediately and provide the most specific and accurate details possible to assist law enforcement agencies investigating the call for service.