Pa. county prison adopts code of ethics for third-party contractors

The county is moving to hold contractors to the same ethical standards as employees following reports of inmate abuses, inappropriate public comments


By Matt Enright
The York Dispatch
        
YORK, Pa. — York County Prison has approved a new code of conduct governing third-party contractors.
The move came amid increased scrutiny of its relationship with Corrections Special Applications Unit, the private consultant accused of various inmate abuses at York County Prison.

Critics, however, say the code doesn't go far enough: Namely, it doesn't lay out clear consequences for contractors who run afoul of the new guidelines.

"It is important to hold contractors and others to the same standards as employees," said Noah Barth, of the Pennsylvania Prison Society. "However, without delineating clear mechanisms for oversight and monitoring as well as what repercussions for violations of this code are, it unfortunately is insufficient."

A promotional photo for Corrections Special Applications Unit.
A promotional photo for Corrections Special Applications Unit. (Facebook/C-SAU)

Adopted by the Prison Board of Inspectors Wednesday, the code of ethics outlines what employees, contractors, consultants, their employees and their representatives must do at the prison. This form — which must be signed by third-party contractors before their approval — is similar to a code of ethics that must be acknowledged by prison employees.

Last month, the Board of Commissioners approved a $253,000 contract with CSAU, the second contract the Greenville, South Carolina-based contractor has received from York County.

Almost immediately after, York County asked CSAU not to sign the contract, saying they wanted to add clauses to that contract.

That follows a public comment period where attendees called to attention comments made by CSAU "Senior Team Leader" Joseph Garcia on a podcast where he mocked Black Lives Matter by saying "Dogs Lives Matter" and predicting a "racial war" in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder in a magazine article.

In the course of its last contract with York County Prison, inmates reported allegations against CSAU in a March 31st incident.

Inmates alleged being forced to stand facing a wall for several hours while weapons were pointed at them.

Two inmates also reported being forced to walk through the prison in handcuffs with their genitals exposed.

York County Prison and the Board of Commissioners denied the allegations. CSAU has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

York County had to reach out to CSAU and ask them to take down a Facebook post by Garcia promoting CSAU which showed the prison, which is against prison policy.

"If they're going to continue to do business with us, then I want to have them sign it," Prison Warden Adam Ogle said Wednesday, of third-party contractors.

Ogle said he was going to be sending the code of ethics to Garcia.

Commissioner Doug Hoke, who also chairs the Board of Inspectors, said the adoption of the code of ethics was part of a response to the allegations against CSAU.

The reason why there hadn't been a formal code of ethics sent to third-party contractors before?

"We have a form similar to this, it's a security briefing, it has a lot of this stuff on it," Ogle said. "It talks about the Prison Rape Elimination Act, it talks about not taking gifts, about general behavior inside the prison.

"All those things are on there, but this is more specific to ethics in general. So we wanted to mirror exactly what our staff has."

Among the guidelines:

  • Each person working at York County Prison is "expected to subscribe to the principle that something positive can be done for each inmate. This principle is to be applied without exception."
  • No employee will "ever taunt or provoke a prisoner with demeaning comments." That includes never swearing at or using vulgar language on a prisoner.
  • No one will inflict pain of any type on a prisoner "except in defense of self, others or to carry out lawful control measures that are justified under the attending circumstances."

During the meeting, Ogle said that failure to abide by the code of ethics could result in contract termination.

There is still no timeline on when the CSAU contract may be signed, Hoke said.

Barth, of the Prison Society, said the organization — which advocates on behalf of inmates and their families — hope that the county sees this as a first step and fleshes out what they expect from contractors and their representatives and how they will enforce those expectations.

(c)2021 The York Dispatch (York, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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