Tag Archive: Delaney Hall

CEC Investigation: The Puppeteer and His Puppets – Part VI

“The allegations of civil rights and corrupt government and contractor practices [at halfway houses] are very serious and disturbing. There is a political circle of individuals and relationships that basically controls State government and certain local governments. This circle conspires to protect itself and its members from appropriate oversight and accountability. This practice must end.” – Senator Ronald Rice (D-28)

Key members of this circle are CEC Founder & CEO John Clancy, Governor Christie, and CEC Senior Vice President and Christie confidante William Palatucci. Another member is Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, about whom much has been written regarding Delaney Hall, immigration detention, Essex County Jail, and CEC campaign contributions. But that is an Essex County story which may not feature in the July Senate and Assembly investigations of State Department of Corrections (DOC) ccontracts. Yet another story revealed by Blue Jersey was CEC’s mismanagement at Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center in Colorado. For CEC the malfeasance involves contracts with NJ state, local government, and other states.

The nexus of Clancy, Christie, and Palatucci

Puppeteer: Let’s call Founder John Clancy the puppeteer. The origins of CEC go back to 1979 when he was a youth services county employee and decided there was money to be made through drug and alcohol treatment for those incarcerated. He was so successful that in 2007 private equity firms Primus Capital and LLR Partners invested $53 million in Community Education Centers. Primus boasted that CEC was “the nation’s largest provider of offender re-entry services with 97 facilities in 22 states and revenues in excess of $200 million.” Today CEC is even larger thanks to a little help from his puppets.

Puppets and what they do

Chris Christie joined the law firm of Dughi & Hewitt in 1987 which represented CEC. “It appears that between 1994 an 1996, CEC made good use of its legal counsel and most likely, its political connections, to strike a deal with the AG’s office to allow CEC to use Education and Health Centers of America (EHCA) as a shell to comply with the state’s legal requirement that only non-profits can hold contracts with the state to operate halfway houses.” Perhaps, it was just coincidental that another member of the law firm at the time was William Palatucci, who had joined in 1992. Fast-forward to 2011 when EHCA’s Form 990 (NJ non profit tax return) indicates that on $71 million in revenue from our state and local governments, $350,000 was spent on John Clancy’s compensation as Chair of EHCA, exclusive of whatever he received from CEC.

In 2000 and 2001 both Christie and Palatucci were registered lobbyists for CEC. In 2005, after representing CEC for 14 years, Palatucci joined the company as its Senior Vice President and General Counsel. His ongoing close relationship with Christie includes helping run Christie’s gubernatorial campaign, serving as co-chair of the governor’s inaugural committee, sitting on the board of Reform Jersey Now which raised money to promote Christie policies, and being a member of the Legislative Apportionment Commission.

As US Attorney, Christie attended the ribbon cutting ceremony in 2007 for CEC‟s new corporate headquarters and the ten year anniversary celebration in 2008 of Talbot Hall. By 2008 with lots of cash, a U.S. attorney as a friend, a well-connected legal V.P., a dubious, sweet-heart deal on EHCA, little DOC oversight, and weak competitors, Clancy must have been asking himself, “What’s not to like?”

But it gets even better for Clancy thanks to more help… also warning signs… and let’s not forget CEC donations beyond the fold  

CEC Investigation: There’s A Lot Of Dirt In Them Thar Hills

Eleven months after an inmate was killed at CEC’s Delaney Hall, Governor Christie served as keynote speaker for its 2010 10th-anniversary celebration. He said, “This is where I need to be, because even as governor, you treasure the times when you can come and be someplace where the work is purely good.”

Following the New York Times three-part series, countless other newspaper articles over the years, NJ Comptroller Boxer’s report, an SCI report Gangs in Prisons, information from prisoner advocacy groups, and many Blue Jersey diaries, the need for a full independent investigation of Community Education Centers (CEC) is apparent. Its facilities are not places where “the work is purely good.”

The problem as Charles Stile points out is that founder William Clancy, his family, and CEC since the early 1990’s have donated over $600,000 to elected officials at the state and local level. That’s a lot of dirt and many enriched hills. Essex County has proven particularly fertile ground for CEC, but Clancy’s largesse has included governors of both parties and officials in counties where CEC operates or would like to operate. Particularly troubling has been Governor Christie’s past participation as registered lobbyist for CEC, his frequent visits to the centers where he spews praises, his acceptance of donations, failure to address publicized problems, and his close relationship with CEC Senior Vice President William Palatucci.

In addition to the largesse, which constitutes conflicts of interest for those who might investigate CEC, the problem for any investigatory group is the sheer number of issues to be examined: “pay-to-play,” public safety when inmates “walk away” from a facility, violence, rape, and drugs within the institutions, lack of quality counseling and education, lack of financial accountability and collusion with local authorities to obtain business.  

With so many pockets of enriched hills and so many varieties of dirt, what group is independent enough with sufficient staff and skills to attack the problem?

Charles Mainor (D-Hudson), Chair of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, is one of two individuals who has called for legislative hearings. How independent can he be, however, as his county houses and receives monies for CEC’s Talbot Hall in Kearny. In Part I of the NY Times series he was quoted as being asked for his estimate of how many people escaped from halfway houses in 2011. “I have heard of no more than three,” he responded. According to state records, the number was 452. Another member of the committee Sean Kean (R-30) in the NY Times article appeared dismissive, saying about the escapes, “It’s not really a problem. It’s a cheaper way of doing business, so that’s why it behooves us to use that option.” In summary, this committee is not a promising group to investigate the matter.

Senator Barbara Buono is the other individual who has expressed concern, stating, “They should be held accountable for their failures.” One of her key staffers said that with the current budget issues on the front burner, she has not yet developed a strategy on how to move forward. She is Vice Chair of the Senate Oversight Committee. Although she has received a combined $2,600 in donations in 2010 and 2011, she has shown the independence and fervor necessary to undertake such an investigation. She has not discussed the matter yet with Chair Robert Gordon (D-38), nor Paul Sarlo (D-36), neither of whom reside in a county where CEC operates. However, another committee member Teresa Ruiz (D-29) is a part of the Essex County Democratic machine which is probably the largest recipient of CEC largesse. With a small committee and an even smaller staff it would be difficult for this group to undertake such a far-ranging investigation.

Because of conflicts of interest and the broad scope necessary, a legislative investigation does not seem the best course. Individual committees, however,  can review matters within their purview and promote legislation. There is currently a Senate bill (S927) sponsored by Jeff Van Drew (D-3) and Steven Sweeney (D-3) which would require the State Auditor to review Department of Corrections privatization contracts to determine whether privatization yields a reduction in costs and whether there was any malfeasance on the part of DOC with the contract. It has been reviewed by two committees, however, the identical Assembly bill (A1880) has seen no committee action. If the bill were to gain passage it would represent a step forward, with some dirt removed, but large mounds still remaining.

There are other more promising venues for investigation which will be discussed in Part II of this diary.  There is a lot of dirt, a lot of hills and we need heavy duty equipment to level the land.  

“No Retreat, No Surrender” To Essex Co. Immigration Detention Expansion

“The history of immigration detention in New Jersey includes a myriad of cases of abuse, including a number of shocking deaths, a culture of secrecy and lack of transparency. What is driving local governments and corporations to embrace the expansion of immigration detention is money. The political situation in Essex County does not lend itself to oversight. CEC has been skirting both pay to pay regulation and campaign donation disclosure requirements through a shell game where EHCA holds the contract but CEC runs the facilities and nets the lion’s share of the profits.” – Essex County Immigration Detention Expansion, an Invitation for Abuse by the New Jersey Advocates For Immigrant Detainees and Enlace

The 19-page Invitation to Abuse Report lays bare in sickening detail the underbelly of immigration detention in New Jersey. Using links and charts it not only provides shocking support for claims of lobbying, cronyism, and malfeasance, but also becomes a clarion call for reform.  

The report addresses:

  •  NJ State Comptroller’s Reports

  •  Essex County Lack of Oversight

  •  Essex County Overstated Profits, Externalized & Underestimated Costs

  •  Joe DiVincenzo, Essex County & NJ Politics

  •  Joe DiVincenzo, Essex County Jail & Community Education Center (CEC)

  •  Bill Palatucci and CEC- Straddling Politics and Busines

  •  Delaney Hall

  •  CEC’s Campaign Contributions

  •  Preventable Deaths of People in CEC’s Custody

    On December 14  the Essex County Freeholders voted unanimously to approve a subcontract with Education & Health Centers of America (EHCA) to house immigrant detainees despite being presented with a petition that  had over 3000 signatures on-line and 1,000 in hard copy. The report documents why this vote must be rescinded, New Jersey’s immigration detention business must be reformed, and laws need to be changed.

    This “smoking gun” report, with which Joe DiVicenzo and an EHCA spokesperson disagree, forms the basis for a continued call to arms. Kathy O’Leary (Pax Christi NJ) and Karina Wilkinson (Middlesex County Coalition for Immigrant Rights) have led this NJ effort. They are now in the midst of getting the report into the hands of state and local legislators, advocating for an Inmate Oversight Committee and planning future actions. Their attitude, against all odds but with a lot of work, has always been: “No retreat, no surrender.” For more information go to An Invitation to Abuse Report and Pax Christi NJ facebook.