I'm curious, is this a competitive bid or a de facto sole source? What is the negotiating strategy?
I'm curious, is this a competitive bid or a de facto sole source? What is the negotiating strategy?
Okay... Some of the things posted in this thread are true, some firmly rooted in the NIMBY principle, some based upon ignorance of the way things work in the FBOP and some are just plain wrong. I'd like to try and address some of the misconceptions posted in this thread. I don't expect any of the dissenters to change their minds - in fact, if you read this entire post, you'll find the opposite is true. At least you all will have a more accurate idea of how things are... and, understand what you should object to and what is simply not relevant to the discussion.
This is not - and should not - be an issue of privatizing versus government-run. Contrary to popular belief, the number of privatized Federal residential reentry centers (RRCs) - aka, halfway houses - outnumber those run by FBOP employees paid directly by taxpayer dollars. This is also not a new trend, but rather something that the FBOP has been doing for a long time. While I cannot speak to the overall cost-effectiveness of this approach, I have to think that if it were in the best interests of the FBOP to run these facilities themselves, with their own paid employees, they would. Consider also that it is far more expensive to house an inmate in a Federal prison vs. a halfway house. If RRCs were to be eliminated, the cost to house these people to the very end of their sentences would use more precious tax dollars. From that perspective, it's a more cost-effective practice to release those nearing the end of their sentences to RRCs.
There is a big misconception that halfway houses are merely extensions of Federal prisons. In one respect, they are. But, only in the sense that most of the people housed at Federal RRCs are at the very end of their sentences, and within weeks of release. Although it is possible for an inmate in Federal custody to be released to an RRC as much as a year before their release date, the actual time is generally much, much less... usually not more than 10-12 weeks. Also, these are not usually people who have no connection to the area. Rather, they are people with some tie to the community. Before being transferred to an RRC, an inmate must work with an FBOP case manager to come up with a release plan specific to the area they are being returned to. (This is important, and something that I will address as a concern later in this post.) The other category of RRC resident are those awaiting trial or sentencing, and under the supervision of the US Probation Office or the US Marshal's Service. It's important to note that this category of RRC resident does not generally have the freedom of movement that inmates returning to society do. It is more of a supervised 'house arrest'. Also, they represent a much smaller percentage of residents in Federal RRCs.
It is not the purpose of community-based halfway houses to rehabilitate their residents. (In fact, many would be surprised to learn that the FBOP itself took the term "rehabilitation" out of its official mission statement a number of years ago.) The purpose of RRCs is to provide a bridge between prison (and prison programming) and an inmate's return to society. Federal prison terms have been getting longer and longer, meaning those returning to society are more out-of-touch with everyday living, necessitating some buffer. This is the primary function of RRCs. It is extremely unlikely that RRCs will go away at any time in the future, so arguing against them - especially as it regards the Kabletown facility - is a moot point.
While no community-based facility housing former inmates is perfect, they generally do not create the hotbeds of criminal activity that opponents of RRCs in general would like everyone to believe. Residents are subject to rules very similar to those they had on the "inside"; things like locked doors and windows, curfews, unannounced job-site visits, regular resident counts, locker inspections and random & scheduled drug tests are the norm. While it would be naive to think that problems don't happen, there are also no statistics (that I could find) to support that there are significantly more problems in areas with RRCs. Violations can result in immediate return to prison for the remainder of a resident's sentence. Or, in the case of anything deemed an 'escape attempt', up to 60 months of additional prison time. While the media just lives to tout the occasional walk-away or crime committed by an RRC resident, the reality is that far more people cycle through RRCs following the rules and do not cause any problems in the community while living there.
I do not know where anyone would get the idea that creating an RRC anywhere in the U.S. would either create lots of jobs or save local government any money. I certainly haven't seen anything in the letter sent from Minsec to the County Commission addressing either point. However, Minsec will need to hire professional and support staff for each new facility they open. Some of these jobs will be higher-paying jobs. Also, while a minor point, if enough RRCs are opened in this region, the FBOP might need to add staff to the regional and field offices serving this judicial district.
All of that said, you might be surprised to learn that I do not support an RRC at the location Minsec has proposed. I have the following concerns about a new facility in Kabletown:
- The fact is that most RRC facilities are placed in areas where residents have access to a robust public transportation network; obviously Jefferson County generally fails this. Other than placing a facility in a downtown location, transportation is a BIG issue. I would be interested in knowing just how Minsec plans to deal with the transportation needs of residents of a Kabletown facility.
- The only jobs realistically available to most released felons are either construction or low-paying, so-called "McJobs", neither of which are in large supply in this County. Also, many national companies with a presence in this County now have policies that severely restrict the hiring of convicted felons of any kind. It is beyond unrealistic to think that a significant percentage of 50-75 RRC residents will find jobs. Unfortunately, this is a problem for released felons regardless of whether they are in an RRC or not. However, as it pertains to RRC residents who will be required to find employment, this a major flaw in the plan for the facility. Perhaps they plan to 'farm out' their residents to local agriculture?
- I'm intrigued by the phrase in the letter to the Commission, "...services for federal offenders releasing to the Northern West Virginia area". I realize that I'm relatively new to Jefferson County, but is this area really considered a part of Northern West Virginia? A small point, maybe one of semantics. The primary value of RRCs is that they allow those returning to society after a term of incarceration to find employment, establish residency, join a church, enter treatment and DHHR programs, and generally re-enter the community they will live in - while still in a supervised and structured environment. The original solicitation letter from the FBOP included 25 counties in the designation "Northern West Virginia". It would be of questionable value to have an inmate placed in an RRC in Jefferson County who was ultimately destined for release to anywhere but Jefferson or (southern) Berkeley counties. I would like to see some sort of assurance that only those destined for this area would be housed at any facility located in *this* county.
- Residents of RRCs are expected to deal with their own health care needs. It is highly unlikely that any resident of an RRC will have health insurance (although some older residents *might* qualify for Medicare). Generally, RRC residents are directed towards no- and low-cost health clinics based in the county (or city) the facility is located. To my knowledge, Jefferson County has only one such facility. The Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic operates at or near capacity and adding an additional 50-75 patients likely is not feasible. I would be interested in knowing if Minsec has been in contact with the EPFC.
- The largest percentage of inmates in Federal prisons are there for drug-related offenses. Part of any release plan for these inmates must include post-prison substance-abuse treatment programming. As we all know, there is a scarcity of such programming here in Jefferson County. Again, I would be interested in knowing just how Minsec plans to overcome this deficiency. (This may not be so much of an issue, as according to the Minsec website, they often develop their own in-house drug and alcohol abuse programming.)
Here's the last thing: I have to wonder just what effect opposition to this facility would have. While far from a 'done deal', the letter to the County Commission seemed pro forma on the part of Minsec. I suspect that the powers-that-be at CCM in the FBOP is used to citizens objecting to the placement of RRCs anywhere, so the arguments against any particular location/facility would have to be overwhelming and in massive quantity. However, the starting place, obviously, is to get the County Commission to NOT support Minsec's proposal for this location. Anyone planning on attending Thursday's meeting should feel free to plagiarize any part of this post.
Last edited by LazerFlash; 08-13-2012 at 09:58 PM.
But I agree the transportation issue seems to loom large. It's one thing to put one of these facilities a half block from a city bus stop. Quite another in a place that pretty much demands the resident own a car!
I keep wondering why we don't put short-timer inmates to work at a trade working for the government instead of expecting them to go get a job on their own, particularly in this economy. Even if they do get one of those McJobs, the story is far from rosy -- I worked at a pizza place under a manager who hired a couple of ex-cons to get the tax credits on offer for doing so. He treated them like crap, and hey, if they quit "voluntarily", he still got his money, and screw them. I can't imagine that's conducive to a smooth return to society. Take that same guy and teach him carpentry or masonry or plumbing or painting and he's got a better shot at a career as a tradesman where he won't be so beholden to a possibly-shady boss.
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." -- Samuel Adams
The MinSec halfway house is not an allowable use in the rural zone.
The notification letter states that the property is zoned for either a "Group Residential Facility" or an "adult vocational/trainingfacility". While these would be allowable uses, the proposed halfway house does not meet the definition of either one.
The zoning ordinance defines each of these very specifically, (page 23 for Group Residential and page 32 for Vocational Training), and the MinSec proposal does not fit these definitions.
LazerFlash has pointed out good reasons why the county Zoning Code is reasonable in not allowing a halfway house in a remote rural area. Placement at Kabletown would guarantee failure for the returning inmates. Page 52 ofthe Bureau of Prisons “Statement of Work”, (see http://maxey4delegate.org/docs/04_-_...ruary_2012.pdf), says that inmates must find employment within 21 days of orientation at the facility. It is just really unlikely that this could happen. There are plenty of people here locally that are not under the same sort of restrictions that can't find local employment.
The Statement of Work also details the driving restrictions placed on inmates, and suggests that contractors may instead provide public transportation vouchers – which would not be of any use in Kabletown.
The contractor is required to provide access to psychiatric counseling and drug/alcohol treatment if necessary. West Virginia is currently paying millions in excess jail costs because we don’t have these services available to qualify our own Regional Jail inmates for parole. And Lazer has already mentioned that health care services have to be made available. A MinSec facility in Pennsylvania ran up over $100,000 in unpaid emergency room bills at the local hospital in Hazelton – a bill that area residents will end up paying in increased fees or taxes.
I am confident that the County Commission will not send aletter of approval under these
Last edited by John; 08-14-2012 at 10:43 AM.
Maybe they should apply for a Convict Camping permit :-)
Another question I had ... how does the liability work?
Suppose a re-entry maggot goes off the deep end and kidnaps and rapes and murders someone's daughter on Kabletown Rd. ... or steals a MinSec employee's vehicle and kills a family in a head-on collision ... who gets sued? The Bureau of Prisons? The state? The county? MinSec LLC? Seems like a quagmire of legal wrangling!!! I'm sure the blame will come down to MinSec who will claim some sort of bankruptcy or due to their LLC status be limited in any liabilty for any claim against them! Has the county commission vetted any of these scenarios? Are there special bonds or insurance riders required of MinSec?
I'd certainly expect our neighbors across the river on Kabletown Rd. to be attending the county commission meeting. We on the Mountain, tho, should keep in mind that this could affect us, too, certainly as taxpayers. And having a halfway house with dozens of "clients" on the other bank of the Shenandoah won't enhance property values here.
Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to attend, but I'd urge anyone who can to do so. Take along the talking points in this thread.
It is always ok to email concerns to the Co. commission too and ask that they be considered at the meeting/discussions about an issue.
LF and Kensey and John all have good points that can be cut and pasted into emails.
“I know up on the top you are seeing great sights, but down at the bottom we, too, should have rights. "Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories"” by Dr. Seuss
I talked with Dale Manuel during the lunch break today. First, he's not exactly sure why the agenda item was written the way it was. He told me that the Commission is certainly not in favor of the Minsec RRC proposal out on Kabletown Road - for all of the legitimate reasons discussed here. He felt that the rest of the Commission shared his reservations and that instead of a "letter of support", the letter would be to reject any attempt to put an RRC at that location, based upon the current zoning ordinance.
The Jefferson County Commission voted unanimously Thursday morning to send a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons advising that the proposed MinSec Kabletown Halfway House would be in violation of the County Zoning Ordinance.
Thank you to the dozens of area residents that came to speak against this proposal. Details are in an article by Matt Armstrong of the Martinsburg Journal at
The final decision on this will be made by the Federal Bureau of Prisons - so while the County Commission action is great news there is still a need for letters to the Bureau. Letters should be sent to
Jan R Johns
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534