by Max Brantley
Kathy Wells of the Downtown Neighborhood Association has gotten some answers from the GEO Group about the private contractor's proposal to put a halfway house for federal convicts in a former office building on West Markham Street a block west of City Hall.
City officials oppose the location. It appears the GEO Group would not be a second halfway house for Little Rock, but a direct competitor with the City of Faith, which has operated a halfway house in a residential neighborhood near Boyle Park for 10 years and whose contract is up for renewal for another five-year period.
Though the City of Faith location on Garfield Street drew opposition originally, the city staff supports its continuation there while opposing a permit for GEO downtown because of a supposed negative impact on tourism. It's OK, in other words, to put federal convicts in a Little Rock residential neighborhood, but not where they night discomfit tourists. I think I get it. It's like the airport. Who better to gouge to pay for fancy salaries and perks for the dukes of the airport than us poor suckers who have to park there to drop off and pick up passengers.
You can see why Director Erma Hendrix gets bent out of shape by the easy way transitional facilities are dumped in her residential neighborhoods. You have to wonder how in hell Mayor Mark Stodola thinks he can pass a sales tax increase while presiding over such. You know he'll be rewarding stellar oversight of the airport by reappointing the fat cat commissioners who've been in charge out there. They're club members. You're not. A halfway house for you, chump. Give some money to the Chamber of Commerce and then maybe we can talk.
to DNA from Sec. Kathy Wells:
Loren Grayer, a GEO Group spokesman, gave these replies to our questions this afternoon:
Questions regarding GEO Group proposal to locate a transitional facility at 615 W. Markham St., Little Rock, AR:
* Your website describes this business as providing professional-grade jobs on staff as well as spending in the community. What number would be hired if this facility was to be approved and made operational? 25
* Would locals be hired? keep some we have, plus hire new local workers.
* What would the salary ranges be? prevailing wage standard. $12 - 15/hour starting salary.
* What would the annual operating budget be? contract would determine this; per-diem rate to apply. to be negotiated. would serve 90 here.
* What is the sum to be paid GEO from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons for this facility's services? no set amount; would negotiate. this would be same range as City of Faith today; the contract they have is expiring, and federal officials are bidding this anew.
* What would GEO spend to renovate this building for this purpose? upwards of $500,000. as much as $1 million.
* Would you hire local contractors? yes
* Was the LR Chamber of Commerce of assistance to you in seeking a location for this facility? no. used a local realtor.
* Did GEO get assistance from anyone in the Arkansas Congressional delegation, or the congressional members-elect? no
* The GEO website map indicates this would be the first Arkansas facility of the firm. What brought you to seek a LR facility? federal request for proposal in this area.
* Are other GEO facilities in similar locations, in a central business district, next to government offices, near to entertainment districts? yes. example: Houston, & Brownsville, TX; Las Vegas, NV; and several in California. some facilities are in some business districts. yes, some are near entertainment districts.
* Would all residents of the proposed facility be from Pulaski Co. originally? many or most. all would be from Arkansas, we expect. If not, from where would these inmates come, and where would they go upon final release? back to original residency.
* Describe the types of offenders to be placed in this facility. Would all be serving terms for property offenses? Give examples of offenses. varies. have right of refusal if one was a threat to the community, based on the nature of the offense. expect to accept what City of Faith has accepted.
* Would any be admitted who were convicted of a crime injuring persons? cannot say no in all cases; may be in criminal history. if so, would be very few in number. If so, what offenders would be excluded? sex offenders. go to special facilities instead.
* Would there be addicts admitted? majority have this background.
* Would this facility comply with Arkansas statutes regulating half-way houses, Act 678 and Act 679 of 2005? checked these; these do not apply to us. we would meet similar standards of federal contracts, however.
* In the GEO facilities elsewhere, what is the recidivism rate? do not have this. Also, please cite your definition of recidivism. we would only be aware of a new offense if they came back through one of our facilities. this is not tracked, because of the many jurisdictions that might imprison someone.
* What is the annual number of escapes, and what is the time before recapture, in other GEO facilities? very few occur. face another 5 years if do run. lack any numbers. refer escapees to U.S. Marshals and we do not get further information.
* What new crimes were committed before recapture in those escapes? only hear of significant events in media.
* What local jobs would be arranged for facility residents? fit jobs to skills of a resident. or offer training. prevent return to criminal fields, like a hacker in computers. there is a wide range of education and job skills with which we deal.
* Would residents attend local educational institutions or job-training programs? potentially.
* please send references who could discuss operations of GEO facilities in neighboring states. OK, LA, TX and MS. offer link to community advisory committee members, to come.