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Resistance to Private Jail Grows in Colls, Twp.

From The Retrospect

As local concerns are brewing over a proposal to locate a privately operated county jail facility on Mt. Ephraim Ave. in Camden, local officials are distancing themselves – and their towns – from it.

At the top of everyone’s concerns is whether or not the proposal is scheduled for the Jan. 4 meeting of the Camden Zoning Board. The board did not return phone calls for comment, but local officials said the “inside word” was that it was not on the agenda.
Meanwhile, residents in Collingswood and Haddon Township are growing restive over the idea that a private jail facility could be built just walking distance from their doorsteps.
In response to public questioning at a meeting Tuesday night, Haddon Township Mayor Randy Teague stated his opposition to plans to build the jail in Camden just a short distance from the two Haddon Township neighborhoods of West Collingswood Extension and West Collingswood Heights. He advocated that residents express their concerns directly to the Camden County Freeholders.
Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley said this week that “what affects Collingswood is the rumor that a privatized jail would be located in Camden on Mt. Ephraim Avenue and Route 130 – in close proximity to Collingswood.”
Acknowledging that the county is seeking private proposals for the jail, Maley shared a letter in which he asked the county to seek proposals, which keep such facilities at least 2,000 feet from any residence – safely away from any home in Collingswood.
In a phone interview, Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli – himself a former Collingswood borough commissioner — called county efforts to privatize at least some jail services “completely separate and apart” from the efforts of private jail company Community Education Centers (CEC). “There is no direct correlation between private development (of jails in Camden County) and the county,” he stated.
According to Cappelli, the county must act within a year to improve conditions for inmates in the system to avert judgment in a federal court case against the county for its poor prison conditions. “The jail population has been exceedingly high the past few years,” he said. Should the county fail to take steps to remedy overcrowded and poor conditions in the county jail system, Cappelli could see the federal judge ordering the release of several hundred inmates or ordering the county to construct a new prison, which Cappelli tagged as a $400 million project.
Already the freeholders have hired a national expert to help reduce the prison population through internal efficiencies, Cappelli said. In six months, with the guidance of a corrections expert, Camden County’s population has been reduced to just over 1,400. While that represents an improvement, he said more needs to be done and “some form of privatization” will be part of the solution.
How does CEC’s proposed jail for Mt. Ephraim Ave. fit in county plans, then?
Cappelli claims Camden County inmates will not necessarily be sent to that facility should it be built. “Privatization (of jails) is the future in America,” he said. CEC could import inmates from neighboring counties, Philadelphia or elsewhere to fill the cells.
Cappelli charged that the corrections officers union, PBA Local 351, has “confused folks” with misinformation about the relationship between the county and CEC. He added that the union engaged in “smears” in an effort to save jobs.
Cappelli added that CEC is well ahead of county plans to privatize. Creating a request for proposals (RFP) for privatized jail services will take the county six months to a year to develop, he said. If an RFP is that far off and a deadline to improve jails needs to be met in 2010, how will the county pull that off? Cappelli said he doesn’t know yet.
What he does know is that the “status quo is unsustainable” and building a new jail is “off the table.” Cappelli did not rule out expansion of correctional facilities in downtown Camden near the existing jail.
Cappelli responded to Maley’s request that any new correctional facilities not be built within 2,000 feet of a residential neighborhood. “That’s something we’ll consider,” he offered.


10 Responses

  1. The Camden Zoning Board on Monday evening pulled a controversial county jail application from its agenda.
    The board pulled the application after receiving a written request from the applicants, Education and Health Center of America. The application for a zoning interpretation is expected to be heard at the Feb. 1 meeting.
    An estimated 200 corrections and police officers from five states and many South Jersey union locals were in attendance to voice their opposition

    • Jen,

      Is your response above plagiarized from the Retrospect website? Please cite your source when you copy word for word.

  2. Thank you for pointing out my error. Yes this was from The Retrospect. I am sure in your position with the town making sure that all the correct info and openess of available information is high on your list.

  3. Kudos to Jen for standing up and trying to get the word out on issues important to the town.

    It is obvious that are fat-cat-laywer commissioners and their buddy employees aren’t getting the job done, and we are grateful that private citizens have stepped up to the plate.

  4. Thanks for fixing the post. I went to Camden the other night. I got there around 545 and couldn’t even get in. I didn’t see the mayor although I had heard he was there. At least Mayor Maley is saying the right thing. Keep this away from residential neighborhoods.

    This is going to be an interesting process. I would like to point one thing out about the county. They dont seem to want to get full public input prior to embarking on a course of action. In the end, if there is public input and the politicians use the information in formulating policy, then our government will work well. If they determine what they want to do and pretend to get public input which will have no influence on their courses of action, then they deserve what they will get in the end, voted out. It is all about open government.

  5. http://www.htaasports.org/Default.aspx?pid=103273&tabindex=7&tabid=69482

    has the htaa organization in haddon township had the flag football (site above) as one of its sports events for awhile? from this site they use the fields in west colllingswood heights? who owns those fields and who maintains them? has there been any more information on the htaa clubhouse on crystal lake ave?

  6. It has been a sport for approx. 4 years and yes that site has been available. I’m pretty sure it’s Haddont Twp School that owns and maintains the fields. Soccer, softball, flag football are played there.

  7. HT Public Works also maintains the fields. I’ve seen PW employees painting the poles for the scoreboard and doing other maintenance at the baseball fields at Recchino Fields.

  8. All you have to do is to check out the history of Private jails in Texas, Missoui and a few other states it is a very expensive mistake

  9. If only I had a dime for every time I came to haddontwp.wordpress.com! Great post!

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