The number of criminal cases filed against inmates of the Delaware County prison for things such as possession of drugs or weapons, assault, witness intimidation, or even attempted murder, has shot up eightfold following the county’s de-privatization of the prison in early 2022.
According to a database compiled by a source and reviewed by Broad + Liberty, the number of criminal case filings in the last five years has been:
Comparing the last two years the prison was privately run (2020-21 — 24 cases) to the first two years of county management (2022-23 — 202) shows the eightfold increase.
Broad + Liberty provided the analysis to both the county and the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, inviting both agencies to offer corrections if they found flaws. Neither did. A detective from the DA’s office did provide a comment about the shift.
“Since the change in management of the George Hill Correctional Facility to the county government, our Criminal Investigation Division (CID) has seen a 100% improvement in communication and collaboration between the security personnel at George Hill and CID,” said Chief County Detective James Nolan.
“For the first time, we have confidence that incidents of crime that take place in or at the jail are being fully reported and prosecuted. We hope this leads to a safer facility for both the people incarcerated and the people who work at the facility,” Nolan concluded.
A county spokeswoman declined to comment further than what Nolan offered.
Nolan’s response did not directly name GEO Group, the last private company to run the facility, of underreporting crimes to the district attorney’s office, but certainly left that open as a possibility..
GEO bristled at the notion it hid crimes for statistical and public relations purposes.
“Any suggestion that GEO failed to report and communicate all incidents of criminal behavior to local law enforcement authorities while managing the facility are baseless and false,” a GEO spokesperson told Broad + Liberty. “As a contract service provider, we were required to follow, and complied with, strict reporting requirements regarding all suspected criminal incidents at the Facility to the County and law enforcement authorities. GEO and Facility leadership worked collaboratively with County leadership to ensure high-quality and transparent operation of the facility, while at the same time providing significant cost savings for the taxpayers.”
Regardless, the data remains instructive. Prisons are not required to submit data on criminal cases filed in their annual “extraordinary events” report to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Of the roughly 115 cases that remain active in the courts, the plurality — 47 — are narcotics-related. Weapons charges follow closely at 34, and assault or assault-related charges total nineteen.
The high number of drug cases raises questions, however, about contraband prevalence.
Last week, Broad + Liberty reported that two guards were arrested by the CID for allegedly smuggling fentanyl into the facility.
Contraband reports were a regular feature of the warden’s report prior to the government management takeover, but have since disappeared from the monthly reports. Similarly, staffing numbers used to be a part of the monthly discussion between jail management and the oversight board, but are not any more.
One of the cases still winding its way through court is an attempted murder charge stemming from an incident in March 2022. At that point, the GWHCF was in an extended part of the transition, where the private management group GEO was still technically in the prison, but at that point, the county had already installed its own warden Laura Williams, who continues in that role to this day.
About one month later, GWHCF witnessed an actual murder, as one inmate was charged with strangling his cellmate.
A link to a spreadsheet of the cases is available here.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com. @shepherdreports