County to award re-entry contract on Thursday

The two-year re-entry services contract will be awarded Thursday, said Lycoming County commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

The commissioners have been trying to come to an agreement on which organization, Firetree Limited or incumbent GEO Group, should get the two-year contract since the county received proposals from both last summer.

One argument was that GEO’s pricing was higher than Firetree’s, while another was that the committee chosen to review proposals gave GEO the recommendation based on its review.

To address the pricing issue, payment for re-entry services is capped at $700,000 in the 2018 budget — about $150,000 less than the annual cost of GEO’s program since 2014. The commissioners met with GEO officials to discuss that cap and were told GEO can work with it, said Commissioner Jack McKernan.

“They are taking the headcount up from 80-something to 100 and keeping the price within the parameters of our budget for the year,” McKernan said, referring to the number of participants GEO will accept at a certain rate per person.

As part of its counter-proposal, GEO is requesting permission to allow state parolees into its program at the state’s expense, a service the commissioners halted in August. At the time the commissioners initially voted against the program, GEO had offered the county a reimbursement of $5 per state parolee per day of attendance.

McKernan added that GEO officials said additional staff would be hired if the number of state parolees receiving services impeded on the county parolees.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito said it’s a “disappointment” that the commissioners have not yet met with Firetree officials, though they’ve been negotiating with GEO.

“We have not had Firetree in for a meeting, which is a disappointment to me,” Mirabito said. “I sent an email to Firetree because I thought, out of fairness, if we were going to ask GEO to address and, in essence, re-bid some of the things in their proposal, that we should allow Firetree to do the same thing. I believe that we have to treat both vendors the same.”

Mirabito said the commissioners hope to start collecting data from the program. Information such as how long each individual is in the program and their associated costs, individual offenses, and whether individuals received their GEDs, work training or jobs after program completion.

The commissioners requested that information earlier this month from GEO, based on data since its inception in September of 2014.

“I was somewhat surprised, when they got us a response, it only went through 2016,” Mirabito said. “They said they didn’t have the numbers for 2017.”

He said GEO does not have the ability to track certain information for specific individuals, such as how many days each individual stayed in the program or their associated costs.

However, GEO did report the following, based on a timeline of September 2014-December 2016:

• Out of 160 total successful completions, 25 participants received new charges.

• Of the 25 who received new charges, 14 received jail time.

• Of 160 total successful completions, 55 violated probation.

• Of the 55 who violated probation, 46 received jail time.

• Of the 160 total successful completions, 84 are employed, 47 are unemployed including 19 who are incarcerated, 10 are disabled, one is retired, two are now deceased. The status of 16 of the successful participants is unknown.

• Of the 160 total successful completions, 62 own or rent their homes, 51 are living with friends or relatives, three live in a shelter setting, two are deceased and 22 are in jail. The status of 20 of the successful participants is unknown.

Mirabito said the commissioners hope to start collecting that information, regardless of which organization gets the contract.

“Hopefully, we’ll get this data and we’ll be able to try to use it to help us move forward,” Mirabito said.