County break with state over reentry program: Be careful

The GEO Group recently started a new partnership through Lycoming County with Pennsylvania to provide reentry services for state parolees, just as it does for the county. The partnership did not last long.

The county commissioners voted 2-1 recently to halt the program completely, citing transparency issues and a lack of information. At the root of the problem is no access to the state’s contract with GEO, according to Commissioner Rick Mirabito. Without that, the commissioners worry that taxpayer dollars from the county’s reentry program are being connected to the state’s costs, while the state all the while disperses its prison populations to the county.

Commissioners Jack McKernan and Tony Mussare originally gave their blessing to start accepting state parolees under the impression that the details would be worked out publicly in the near future and that certain conditions would be met, such as setting an end date for the partnership.

County leaders already have a problem with the state for not funding costs for mandated programs like adult probation. We understand the county’s action, but we believe a slightly different tact could have been taken while still making its point.

Commissioner McKernan voted against canceling the program, reasoning that it means relocating three state parolees.

In discussion two days after the original vote, it was revealed 22, not 3, parolees were involved in the partner program with the state. That did not change the decision to cancel the partnership, but the commissioners are continuing to review information. A decisive vote on the program has been delayed. And why not get all the information on cost details of the program and how they are being funded and publicly vet them before deciding to abort the program and put parolees in limbo?

The county has a legitimate gripe about paying for things connected with state prison costs without being sure it should pay for those items. But the prison institutions on both levels need each other and some care must be taken to make sure bridges are not being burned, resulting in more operational problems in the future.