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Delco Council finalizes new prison board with appointment of three citizen members

The incoming Jail Oversight Board will oversee George W. Hill Correctional Facility, the only privately operated county jail in Pennsylvania.

The George W. Hill Correctional Facility, Delaware County's jail, has come under heightened scrutiny amid wrongful-death lawsuits.
The George W. Hill Correctional Facility, Delaware County's jail, has come under heightened scrutiny amid wrongful-death lawsuits.Read moreDAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer

After months of searching, Delaware County officials on Wednesday appointed three people to a new board that will oversee how the county prison is operated.

The County Council unanimously approved the appointments of Brian Corson, Jonathan Abdur-Rahim King, and Deborah Love, all of whom are active on other boards and organizations in the county.

Council began soliciting residents to apply for the new Jail Oversight Board in October, when its members unanimously voted to replace the existing Board of Prison Inspectors with the new board. That board had managed the George W. Hill Correctional Facility since the 1990s, when it became the only county prison in the state to be operated by a company. The change in oversight was effective Wednesday.

The jail has come under heightened scrutiny amid wrongful-death lawsuits and increased activism by the Delaware County Coalition for Prison Reform. Earlier this month, John Reilly, the longtime superintendent, announced his retirement after an Inquirer investigation detailed allegations against him of racist and abusive behavior.

Reilly’s retirement was effective Wednesday, and his replacement has not been named. His duties have been temporarily given to Donna Mellon, an assistant superintendent at the jail, according to sources in county government.

In his resignation letter, obtained by The Inquirer, Reilly said he chose “not to be a distraction from [county officials’] work or the important work to be started by the county Jail Oversight Board.”

» READ MORE: Boss of Delaware County’s private jail accused of racism, abuse of power

County Executive Director Marianne Grace, who reviewed the applications for the Jail Oversight Board, said Wednesday that she interviewed 33 candidates. Grace said her final selections were chosen for their varied experiences and backgrounds.

They will serve three-year terms on the board, which also includes the county sheriff, controller, executive director, two judges, and the County Council chairperson.

Corson, 38, is the founder and executive director of MVP Recovery, a program that provides support and housing for people recovering from drug addiction, and is also a member of the county’s Heroin Taskforce.

King, 54, is a community activist in Chester, his hometown, and previously worked as community affairs liaison in the administration of former Mayor John Linder. He has served as a board member of the Delaware County Literacy Council since 2012.

Love, 64, was one of the members of the Board of Prison Inspectors and is the only holdover from that board. A registered nurse, she previously served as a township supervisor in Chadds Ford.

Her nomination by Grace raised concern from Democratic Councilman Kevin Madden, who said Love did little to address the issues at the jail during her six months on the previous board. He ultimately relented.

Two previous attempts to replace the board had been introduced by Madden and fellow Democratic Councilman Brian Zidek, both times failing along party lines.

Council Chairman John McBlain said the Republicans’ approval on the third attempt came after consulting with County Court President Judge Kevin F. Kelly, who gave his blessing to the new board.