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Proposed Jail a Short Walk to HT, Colls, Woodlynne

Currently, the county jail sits next to the Camden County Hall of Justice in downtown Camden. Under the leadership of Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli of Collingswood, the county is pursuing privatization of the county jail as a means to cope with prison overcrowding and pending lawsuits.

The change to a private jail would eliminate the jobs of 400 county workers, including 350 guards. Aside from 400 county residents losing their jobs, Robert Parker, president of PBA Local 351, which represents the corrections officers, said the township and other nearby communities should fear a privatized jail near their neighborhoods.
“You don’t want to get a jail in your backyard,” Parker said.
The proposed location at 2630 Mt. Ephraim Ave., Camden is within short walking distance of the Morgan Village and Fairview neighborhoods of Camden. Also a stroll away are Woodlynne Borough, West Collingswood and the West Collingswood Extension neighborhood of Haddon Township.
In fact, the rear of the proposed property backs up to train tracks and is about a quarter-mile on foot from Collingswood’s Thomas Sharp Elementary School. Less than a half-mile on foot is Woodlynne Public School.
Not much further are downtown Collingswood, the West Collingswood Heights neighborhood of Haddon Township, Oaklyn, Gloucester City, Audubon Park and Audubon.
“We’re professional, police-trained officers,” Parker said, noting that guards at the county jail are authorized to carry weapons and use force as necessary just like “street police.”
Haddon Township resident and corrections officer John Vernon advised that private security guards do not have the same authority to use force. “A private corrections officer cannot use force,” he said, “which we have to use sometimes to quell disturbances.”
During inmate disturbances or riots under a private jail, local police would have to come in to the jail to restore order, Vernon said.
Further, corrections officer George Brown added that inmates are released at all hours of the day, year-round.
Brown described what happens when an inmate is released. Often, they have nowhere to go or can’t get home easily. Many are drug addicts looking for their next fix. Brown said the newly released persons then “check out the scene” and find trouble. Criminals will have easy access to cars and homes. Drug dealers will move in to serve those looking for a fix.
“Your neighborhoods are going to change,” promised Brown.
Parker told Mayor Randy Teague and Commissioners Paul Dougherty and John Foley that his corrections officers were speaking out because they are aware that the “freeholders are on a tour and talking with police chiefs and mayors” about the new jail plan. “We feel you’re being misled,” he said.
Teague said county officials held a presentation for him and several other leaders from local towns, including Audubon Mayor John Ward, on Monday. At this point, Teague and his fellow commissioners said they were still gathering information about the jail plan before deciding where they stand. When questioned by Haddon Township resident Tom Cassel, all three members of the governing body pledged not to accept campaign contributions from any of the private jail companies.
A copy of the presentation is available on the county website. The presentation cites public safety and cost as two main drivers of moving the jail. The existing jail is described as overcrowded, poorly designed, in poor condition. Renovation is deemed insufficient to fix the problems.
Overcrowding puts four inmates in a two-person cell; two people get beds and two sleep on the floor.
Currently, the presentation states that the jail costs $58 million annually to run, which is 18% of the county budget. Unsettled union contracts could tack on another $4 million annually.
The county estimates building a new jail would cost between $250 million and $400 million. Servicing that debt and increased operating expenses, the county estimates, would cost $90 million. Privatization, on the other hand, is projected to save $5 to $10 million.
Current corrections employees would receive a severance package, education and retraining benefits. The private jail would give current officers first consideration for jobs and all employees would be mandated to receive health and pension benefits.
On Tuesday night, the corrections officers warned Haddon Township officials to be wary of claims of cost savings or private jails being just as safe as public jails.
Citing a privatized Penn-sylvania jail, the corrections officers pointed out that starting salaries for guards are currently $12 an hour.
Esther Gross, a resident of Camden’s Morgan Village neighborhood, cited federal studies showing inferior services from private jails. Among the findings were higher rates for prisoner escapes, inmate suicide rates, inmate-on-inmate assaults and inmate-on-guard assaults.
Haddon Township resident and school board member John Kendall, who lives in the West Collingswood Heights neighborhood, came out against the proposed jail site. Speaking of the freeholders, Kendall said, “they want to get the jail out of downtown Camden to redevelop the waterfront.”
Teague said that at the presentation he attended, a second site also appeared to be under consideration but there was no indication of its location. He also noted that the township has no authority over the project.
Gross urged everyone that is concerned about the jail attend the Camden Zoning Board meeting on January 4 at 5:30 p.m., City Council Chambers at 520 Market St. To build a prison facility, the applicant – Community Education Centers – needs a variance.


16 Responses

  1. This is not about saving money for Camden County taxpayers, but rather a way to have their friends develop the riverfront so that pockets can be filled. If Mayor Teague of Haddon Township or other mayors of neighboring towns truly believe that they have no authority over the project than they should rethink their leadership abilities. What is more upsetting is that the Camden Zoning Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 4, 2010 at 5:30 P.M. making it very diffcult for many concerned citizens to attend, since many of them are still at work or on their way home. The freeholders should change the time of the meeting so that more citizens can come out to voice their concerns.

  2. That is classic Randy Teague “leadership”
    Randy and Paul just throw up their hands and say “not our legal problem” and run.

    Real leaders stand up and have a voice for their people.

    It is alleged that there are plans to develop the waterfront with possible gaming, particularly due to the recent moves by Philadelphia to bring gaming to center city and possibly that waterfront.

    There is a lot of money and interest in getting a piece of the action going on the Camden waterfront. You think that influence doesn’t hold sway over the freeholders?

    Real leadership stands up and takes a position and speaks for the constituents. But we don’t have a real leader. We have Randy Teague, possibly the worst mayor in the history of our small town. Under Randy Teague’s watch we have watched massive eminent domain abuses, Fieldstone’s shenanigans, legal abuses against the public in terms of the OPRA laws, the police used to silence the public at the meetings, dramatic cost of living increases, and continued alleged political graft and alleged corruption.

    If you eat too much over the holidays just think of what Randy has done to the town and you can empty your stomach fast.

  3. FYI, the people of this town deserve to have commissioners who will vigorously fight this location. Sitting in the meeting last week, I watched the Mayor sit there, for over an hour, listen to the corrections officers. He failed to acknowledge that he had been at a meeting the night before with the county. That should have been the first thing out of his mouth. I emailed him and the reason he gave for not disclosing this. He said that he had told this to the union leaders and it was in the paper. I am a citizen, not a union leader and I didn’t know. At the meeting after the disclosure, he offered me the presentation provided by the county. Well, why didn’t he proactively copy it and give it out to everyone as a handout? The fact that I even had to ask for them not to take political contributions from the jail builders is a crazy, but at least they said that hadn’t and wouldn’t. The location of this jail will clearly hurt our town and our officials should just stand up and clearly state “Not Here”.

    By the way, the jail they are replacing is not the waterfront state prison, but the county jail next to the courthouse in downtown Camden.

    I hope that our commissioners come out and are clear in their opposition to this location.

  4. I sent the following message two days ago to Ms. Burns, the mayor and commissioners and newspapers and have not received a response. Does anyone know where the names are posted for the holiday drawing?
    Ms. Burns
    When will the winning names from the drawing on Friday be posted on your web site?

    • There’s a list of names on the web page you referenced… Are they the winning names you’re looking for?

      • St Evelyn is back. It can’t help itself

      • For someone that claims to :
        A) live in New Zealand
        B) not live in Haddon Township
        C) not know the commisioners

        St. Evelyn sure takes an interest in the most mundane of topics here.

        The minute a post showed up that called Kate Burns and the BID into question St. Evelyn couldn’t reist the urge to scratch that itch and jump into the fray.

        You are known by your deeds, St. Evelyn.


        it’s funny when you’re not as anonymous as you think you are, “Saint” Evelyn.

        Welcome back, but then you never left, judging by how often you check the blog.

  5. Thank you

    I just saw the winning names on this site

  6. Building a prison complex on the border of the town is 100 percent BAD for the town. The prison will generate no revenue for the town, will increase traffic through the town. The prison will likely result in increased crime rates around town. The prison will definitely result in a drop in property values in the areas of the town that surround the prison, which results in a drop in tax revenue.

    Will the prison buses travel on township roads to and from the prison?. Increased traffic and increased wear and tear on our streets.

    If we had some real leadership they would be standing united with the leadership of Audubon and Oaklyn and speaking out vocally against this idea. Because that is what is best for Haddon Township.

    Spineless politicians/lawyers don’t take a stand on principle. Because that could possibly hurt their standing with the Camden Co. Freeholders and is a possibly bad move politically, especially if you are a member of the Democrats. You get what you pay for in terms of leadeship. Haddon Township got two lawyers who demonstrated questionable success in their field of purported expertise, and they are now running the town into the ground with Foley along for the ride.

  7. To the last Anonymous:
    The prison won’t generate revenue for the town? It is not being built in Haddon Twp. The Camden County Freeholders have all of the explaining to do. They will award the contract for privatization not Haddon Twp., Audubon, Collingswood etc. The jail is being built in Camden City not Haddon Twp. By the way, Tom Cassell is a member of the Haddon Twp. Democratic Club and is seeking a Treasurer position in the organization. Is he a part of the Democratic Machine?

    • So you are saying “not our fault”
      Sounds very much like our two lawyer-commisioners.

      The point it that the prison is no good for our town.

      Our leadership should stand up and say so and fight this tooth and nail.

      Watching our town go down the toilet and saying “oh it’s the freeholders fault” is the act of cowards that lack the conviction to be leaders.

      We need leaders and men and women of character.

      Go back to ambulance chasing and divorce court and give us some real leadership, please.

  8. Yes I am a member of the Democratic Club So? I am a CPA and offered to be treasurer to help out. The point? Wow. That’s news. Next time, could you please post coherently?

    By the way, the issue of privatization and location are independent. I oppose the jail in that location. I was glad to hear that at tonight’s commission meeting the mayor stated that he didn’t support putting the jail near the town. I encourage as many people as possible to go out to the Camden Planning Board meeting to oppose the location of the jail on Mt. Ephraim Ave. He said he would be at that meeting himself. He also said he was getting support from the surrounding towns’ officials relating to the new location.

  9. To Tom Cassel. As a township resident, & a Camden County Corrections officer I thank you for your support. I can tell you first hand that this move to privatize the jail would be a disaster in the making & would not work. Don’t believe the freeholders BS about trying to save taxpayers $$$, when have they been concerned about saving $$$ do I need to mention the road in Cherry Hill, The Pennsauken Mart, or the Boathouse?? Look on twitter at NoPrison4Profit and you will see example after example of articles on how private prisons do not work. I encourage every concerned resident of Haddon Township & the surrounding townships to show up at the zoning meeting on Jan 4th, and to the Freeholder Meeting in January to voice their concerns.

    • nice to hear that Randy is NOW going to stand up and take a leadership position.

      TOO bad he didn’t do that during the months prior at the meetings he attended. He had to wait until enough people screamed in protest to finally stand up and take action.

      We need leaders that take action PROactively, not REactively.

      Randy Teague is in my opinion the worst mayor in the history of this town and will be remembered as such. We need leaders with character and integrity. Ambulance chasers need not apply.

  10. Randy and Paul aren’t going to public take a stand against Cappelli.
    If you live on the West side better make sure you have good deadbolts on your doors and invest in shatter-proof laminate applied to your ground floor windows.
    At least the prison will give some shade to the homes and decrease summer air-conditioning bills.

    Another fine legacy of the Teague administration.

  11. crickets

    the supporters (like there are any left) of Randy and Paul must be proud of what they’ve done to this town.

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