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Prison contract not renewed; 300 local workers impacted

WINTON – Approximately 300 employees here at Rivers Correctional Institution (RCI) will be impacted after the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced they would not rebid the operational contract for the privately owned prison.

That contract is scheduled to expire on March 31, 2021.

RCI’s parent company, The GEO Group of Boca Raton, Florida, made the formal announcement on Monday morning.

In a statement, George C. Zoley, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GEO, said the contract for RCI generated approximately $43 million in annualized revenues for GEO. He added that GEO expects to market the RCI to other federal and state agencies.

“We have operated the Rivers Correctional Facility under a public-private partnership with the Federal Bureau of Prisons for 20 years,” Zoley said in a press release. “Over the last two decades, our employees have delivered high quality services, helping Washington D.C. residents at the Rivers Correctional Facility achieve successful rehabilitation and community reentry outcomes.

“Federal prison populations in the United States have experienced a decline, more recently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Zoley added. “We expect to market the Rivers Correctional Facility to other federal and state agencies.”

In an email sent Wednesday, GEO officials refrained from answering several questions posed by this newspaper, to include possible severance packages for the Rivers Correctional employees, the exact timing of the expected lay-offs, the number of inmates currently housed there and those numbers from the past two years, the timeline of when and where those inmates will be transferred, if other GEO-owned facilities nationwide face the same situation, and the process GEO may use to identify public or private entities to purchase or lease the property.

“Thank you for your email. At this time we are unable to comment beyond the public press release we issued on Monday,” said Christopher V. Ferreira, Manager of Corporate Relations for GEO, in a reply email.

Located just west of Winton off US 158, RCI opened in 2001 and operated under an original 10-year contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

In a story from the News-Herald archives, BOP is required to re-bid an operations contract every 10 years. Prior to the expiration of the original contract (March 31, 2011), The GEO Group submitted such a bid, as did another company seeking to build a prison on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

After several rounds of public hearings and assessments, the new, 10-year federal contract was awarded to The GEO Group.

Under the terms of that contract, RCI would house up to 1,450 BOP inmates from the Washington, DC area.

In Monday’s press release, it stated that The GEO Group is a worldwide operation that includes ownership and/or management of 123 facilities totaling approximately 93,000 beds, including projects under development, with a workforce of approximately 23,000 professionals.

 

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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