Delco jail will get new interim warden | Information

The Delaware County Jail Oversight Board named Esker “Lee” Tatum as the new interim warden for the George W. Hill Correctional Facility during a regular Wednesday evening meeting.

“I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this effort,” Tatum said during a Zoom conference meeting. “I think we have a strong cornerstone here from which to work. We can build here. Of course, some improvement is needed in the facility, but I see some of these things will be on the agenda as we move from privatization to state control. I am here to help in any way I can. “

Tatum is replacing Donna Mellon, who retired on Dec. 17 but worked part-time in administrative support, and is the first African American to take on the role. He has over 25 years of proofreading experience, including a year and a half at Geo Group, the private, for-profit company that manages the Concord County Jail on a five-year $ 264 million contract.

Tatum, a graduate of the University of Greensboro, NC, and a US Air Force veteran, previously held administrative positions in Philadelphia, his hometown of New Jersey, and in Berlin, New Hampshire, where he was the director of a federal penal institution. He is the former Deputy Facility Administrator of the prison under Geo.

George Lazarus, Delaware county executive director, said he hoped to get a recruiting firm before the county council to look for a permanent guard and several other positions in the prison in the next few meetings. He added that Tatum had a calm demeanor and “the heart of a true official” and would not be prevented from being a strong candidate for the job.

“I’m looking forward to this challenge and share some of my experiences,” said Tatum. “The cornerstones that I will practice and that I will bring with me from the Bureau of Prisons and Geo will be excellent proofreading, respect, and integrity. I think when you have these three things, anything else is possible. “

Tatum is expected to assist in the transition of the prison from private management to county control in the coming months. Majid Alsayegh, a principal at Alta Management, LLC, who is providing property ownership services to the county as part of this transition, was also on the conference call on Wednesday and said he had already met with various stakeholders.

Alsayegh said he will continue these meetings while collecting the data needed for a financial assessment and working with the county to take next steps.

Kevin Madden, chairman of the Jail Oversight Board and district councilor, said the district’s goal is to reduce the prison population through programs and services that reduce relapses, which will improve the health of the community, individuals and their families, as well as the district’s tax burden .

One of Tatum’s first official duties was reading Geo’s December staff fines, which amounted to $ 202,890. The penalties are based on the number of vacancies not filled under the contract and are typically $ 100,000 per month.

Tatum said the official prison staff quota is 95%, but absences due to things like COVID-19 and the Family Medical Leave Act reduced the effective staff quota to 84% for December. During the month, 42 employees were on vacation, he said, but 35 of them have returned. Six are still on the way with a positive coronavirus test and the others are waiting for test results.

Though December numbers were high, Tatum expects them to decline over the next several months. As of December 31, there were no known infections in the prison population, although 25 had tested positive and recovered between November 13 and the end of the year.

Tatum also reported that a 20-year-old man hanged himself in prison last month. Staff knocked him down and began life-saving measures before a medical team who happened to be on the same block took control, he said. The man died from his injuries and the family was notified, Tatum said.

The employees were able to intervene in a second suicide attempt with a 22-year-old man in time, said Tatum. In this case, the staff cut the man off again and provided assistance before medical care took over. This man was taken to a hospital where he was stabilized before being returned to prison and placed on suicide watch, Tatum said.

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