“Forensic Fight”

http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/535142.html?nav=5006

This article found in the Warren Times-Observer on September 6, 2010 indicates that while time seems to be running out, the fight to keep the forensic unit at Warren State open is being waged with tenacity.  While the Union Leader fights to keep the unit open, he is also working to ensure that if their efforts fail in keeping the unit open, as many of the27 forensic security employees will be able to acquire other positio.  It sounds to me like the stance is that he is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.  Petitions have been available for signing all over the Warren area I can only hope their efforts aren’t in vein.

Union leader in tough spot

By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com

POSTED: September 6, 2010

Article Photos

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Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Forensic unit petition
A man signed a petition Friday to keep the Warren State Hospital forensic unit open at the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA) canopy in front of the Sill House in Warren. PSCOA members have collected more than 1,500 signatures and plan to set up the canopy in Sugar Grove and Youngsville during the coming week.

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The president of Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association Local SI Warren is in a tough spot.

On one hand, Ed Rollinger is doing whatever he can to prevent the closure of the Warren State Hospital Forensic Unit and the loss of about 30 family-sustaining jobs held by his fellow union members.

On the other, he is trying to work with the state agency that announced the closure to help find new jobs for those forensic security employees.

“I can’t just say it’s not going to happen,” Rollinger said. “If it did my members would be left out in the cold.”

The Department of Public Welfare announced the closure in early August saying the unit was scheduled to be fully out of service by the end of October. The forensic unit at Torrance State Hospital has been expanded to allow Warren’s patients to be treated there.

Department officials assured employees that they would provide assistance in finding job placement for those losing their jobs.

“I’ve been trying to work on some agreement that will help my members,” Rollinger said.

In late August, he received information from DPW.

Although the department came through with some of the promised help, it was not what he and the other union members had hoped.

“Right now the only definite they’re offering is three positions for my job classification at Torrance,” Rollinger said.

The forensic unit operation at Torrance has been expanded to include Warren’s patients to its existing population of 64.

According to State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65th), in the past six months, a total of 28 people have been hired at Torrance in spite of a state hiring freeze.

According to union members, those 28 are all forensic security employees (FSEs) and all were hired before the announcement to close Warren’s unit.

There are 27 FSEs at the Warren State Hospital forensic unit, Rollinger said.

Rollinger said about a third of his union members are willing to move to Westmoreland County for jobs at Torrance.

“I would like to see them take anybody who would like to go,” he said. “I can’t see why they can’t absorb them all. That’s what I’m trying to go for.”

The union members have not been offered placement at the only other state hospital forensic unit in Norristown, Montgomery County, he said.

Other than the three FSE positions offered at Torrance, DPW is offering to hold spaces at Warren State Hospital’s civil operation for the union members.

Those are state jobs and they’re in Warren, but there’s a downside.

“It’d be a drastic pay cut for my members,” Rollinger said. He said members’ pay would go down 20 to 30 percent.

Other positions in state prisons may be available.

“We do have opportunities to place into corrections,” Rollinger said.

DPW can’t force the Department of Corrections to hold openings for the FSEs in Warren.

“They can’t freeze openings for us. It’s still a waiting game,” Rollinger said. “People would be furloughed and then go on unemployment. It’s not a ‘one day you work here, the next day you work there.'”

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“Don’t Privatize Mental Health Care For Inmates”

This article was found in the October 17, 2007 issue of “The Tribune-Democrat” I’m not positive, but I believe this may be a paper out of Johnstown, PA, but I can’t say fro sure since the site didn’t readily reveal the location of the paper.  If I’m wrong, please let me know so that I can correct the location if it is wrong.  The articl focuses on the PSCOA’s views regarding the Privatizing of Forensic treatment Facilities

Don’t privatize mental health care for inmates

BY DONALD G. MCNANY

The Rendell administration’s intention to privatize the care, custody and control of mentally ill criminals is more than just bad public policy – it puts public safety at risk.

The state Department of Public Welfare has formally requested bids from private companies to take over the entire operation of Pennsylvania’s three secure, segregated units for these dangerous criminals. One of these units is housed at Mayview State Hospital in Allegheny County. 

According to the DPW plan, Mayview would be closed by the end of 2008, and these inmates would be transferred to Torrance State Hospital in Westmoreland County.

The stated objective in the DPW proposal can only be read one way: Do it cheaper by getting them out on the streets faster.

Beyond the stunning naiveté behind this severely flawed proposal, and even greater than the job security of some of our state’s most highly trained and dedicated civil servants, is the fundamental responsibility of government to protect its citizens.

Handing over this public trust to a for-profit company in the name of cost-cutting is an unnecessary and dangerous gamble.

Trying to pinch a few dollars when it comes to sexually deviant and violent criminals who have persistent and severe mental illnesses is outrageous and irresponsible.

One has to question why such a move is even being considered, and why the Rendell administration would spend so much time and resource to pursue such a wrongheaded course.

(Incidentally, this comes at a time when the administration is also intent on implementing a new policy that would allow for early release of thousands of so-called “nonviolent offenders.”)

It seems somebody is being led down the primrose path with that old and tired promise of “more for less.”

According to the DPW, privatization will cut costs by 20 percent while – at the same time – enhance services. These so-called enhancements would include an acceleration of the processing, evaluation and potential release of these inmates.

Tragically, the recidivism rate for these types of criminals is high. How many dollars saved can justify the repeat offense of a rapist or a pedophile?

Does the Rendell administration really want to take responsibility for such a policy?

The Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association believes that the elimination of more than 200 “forensic” jobs held by PSCOA members is the opening move in an attempt to privatize the entire state corrections system.

This should concern all Pennsylvanians because privatization and our corrections system are a dangerous mix.

For-profit companies are just that – for profit. Pressure to produce a fat bottom line has no place in our state prison system. It would inevitably lead to less secure state hospitals and prisons because what ultimately drives the decision-making is profit – not security.

The group of PSCOA members who have been successfully providing this essential security are called Forensic Security Employees.

FSEs train extensively across several disciplines, including security and psychiatry. It is extremely dangerous work and the risk and incidence of serious injury are high. FSEs have suffered severe and career-ending injuries in the line of duty.

It takes time, dedication, specialized skills and decades of institutional knowledge and experience for these men and women to perform their jobs successfully.

The public knows little about FSEs and the three secure units inside our state hospitals because their record has been exemplary: There has never been a successful escape from any of these facilities since the creation of FSEs decades ago.

It is extremely disturbing to put these critical services on the auction block for the lowest bidder. No for-profit company can hope to duplicate the years of experience and knowledge FSEs bring to the job. The citizens of Pennsylvania should not be forced to accept a trial-and-error approach when it comes to the control and custody of mentally ill criminals.

If we’ve learned anything in recent years it’s that you don’t gamble with public safety, and you certainly don’t try to do it on the cheap.

PSCOA firmly believes this privatization effort by the Rendell administration should be stopped in its tracks.

It is unwarranted, dangerous, and it would ultimately pose a threat to the safety of our communities across the state.

Donald G. McNany is president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association.

Pennsylvania State Corections Officers Association Website

  I stubled across this site, and thought I would include it here, because it offers a different perspective then what I’ve seen from the DPW on the privatizing of Forensics in Pennsylvania.  It also includes a nice list of links to articles, and might be worth keeping an eye on since they seem to be adding article links regularly (at least that’s what it appears to be)

So, here’s the link to the PSCOA website ……

http://www.pscoa.org/dpw/

I’ll also be including the link on the page entitled “State Hospital Closures and Privatiztion Links” to make it easier for folks to find in the future.

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