More space than people at RCI

Published 5:31 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2020

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WINTON – A dwindling number of federal inmates is among the reasons why the Federal Bureau of Prisons opted not to renew its contract with The GEO Group to operate Rivers Correctional Institution (RCI).

Late last month, The GEO Group issued a press release saying they would close RCI after the contract renewal was not granted. That decision impacts approximately 300 employees at RCI, a privately-owned prison located just west of Winton that housed federal inmates from the Washington, DC area since it opened in 2001.

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.

GEO officials refrained from answering several questions, sent by email, 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.

However, questions from this newspaper were answered by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Justin Long, Office of Public Affairs, Information, Policy and Public Affairs Division, said the Bureau of Prisons’ projections indicate that enough beds will be available within its own inventory in the future.

“Therefore, bed space at Rivers CI will not be needed,” he stated.

The number of inmates at RCI have fallen over the past two years. Long said there were 1,370 inmates housed there on July 1, 2018. That number stood at 1,147 inmates housed there on July 1, 2020.

As far as the timeline for moving the current inmates from Rivers Correctional to other federal facilities, Long said he expects that process to be completed by March 31, the expiration date of the RCI contract.

He added that GEO currently has seven contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (including River CI) for the management and operation of privately contracted correctional institutions with federal low security inmate populations.

Upon opening in 2001, RCI operated under an original 10-year contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The latter 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, according to a story from the R-C News-Herald archives.

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 federal inmates.



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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