A decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to phase out the use of some private prisons is likely to be felt across the country, even in the Centre County area.
The Moshannon Valley Correctional Center, which lies just outside Philipsburg in Clearfield County, is privately owned and operated by the GEO Group. The group, which identifies itself as “the world’s leading provider of correctional, detention and community re-entry services,” operates 104 facilities in four countries.
According to a news release by GEO, the group has had a long-standing private-public partnership with the Federal Bureau of Prisons dating to the 1990s. The decision to phase out private prisons was announced Aug. 18.
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told the BOP to start reducing and ultimately ending the Justice Department’s use of private prisons, The Associated Press said. The Obama administration cited the declining prison population as justification for the closure of privately run prisons.
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“While the company was disappointed by (Aug. 18’s) Department of Justice announcement, the impact of this decision on GEO is not imminent,” the release said. “As acknowledged by the announcement, the BOP will continue, on a case-by-case basis, to determine whether to extend contracts at the end of their contract period.”
The Moshannon Valley facility began operating under a new 10-year contract in March with a five-year base term that runs through March 2021, GEO said.
There are about 260 jobs at the prison, Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Stan LaFuria told the CDT, with the average salary falling at about $40,000 a year, meaning a total of $10.4 million flowing into local pockets.
According to the GEO Group, the prison has the capacity for up to 1,820 inmates, and it provides care, custody and control for nonviolent criminals. Offenders are provided with educational programming, substance abuse counseling, life skills, employment assistance and vocational opportunities.
GEO took control of the prison in 2010 during an acquisition of Cornell Cos. The prison was also expanded that year.
GEO said in the release that it will continue to work with the BOP “in order to ensure safe and secure operations at all of our facilities.”