MinSec, the operator of a controversial private detention facility in downtown Hazleton, has been sold, and its new owner will relocate the facility, the owner confirmed Friday.
Community Education Centers of West Caldwell, N.J., announced Nov. 30 that it purchased MinSec Holdings Inc. of Wallingford for an undisclosed amount. CEC spokesman Chris Greeder said the company plans to relocate MinSec‚??s Hazleton treatment center.‚??The company plans to relocate the Hazleton contract and is considering all options as to the location of the new site, including outside the Hazleton area,‚?Ě Greeder said in a statement.
State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, an outspoken opponent of the facility‚??s presence in downtown Hazleton, said she met Thursday with John Clancy, CEO of CEC, and that Clancy assured her the facility would not be relocated ‚??in any of southern Luzerne County.‚?Ě
Greeder was not able to confirm those comments immediately Friday but said the company is ‚??actively listening to local area concerns‚?Ě in seeking a new location for the facility.
‚??CEC is currently in the early stages of reviewing operations at all of the recently acquired re-entry facilities,‚?Ě Greeder said. ‚??Public safety is always the greatest priority at CEC‚??s facilities.‚?Ě
MinSec‚??s presence in downtown Hazleton has been controversial since its opening in 2008, with officials linking the facility to dozens of inmate-related crimes and escapes. The private community corrections facility is in the former Altamont building, 145 W. Broad St., at the heart of downtown Hazleton and the city‚??s $30 million Broad Street redevelopment project.
‚??It‚??s absolutely the wrong location and the wrong type of business to have in a downtown,‚?Ě Toohil said. ‚??It was negatively affecting our crime rate; it was negatively impacting people who wanted to shop or do business in downtown Hazleton.‚?Ě
In September the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections said it would not renew contracts to house drug-and-alcohol and mental-health inmates at MinSec Hazleton. The lost contracts resulted in the facility‚??s inmate population dropping by about 25 percent to around 100.
The corrections department declined to say why it did not renew the contracts, but Toohil said her efforts, as well as those of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, played a role.
Donna Palermo, president of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, called the announcement of MinSec‚??s departure ‚??great news,‚?Ě saying the detention center ‚??has had a very negative impact on our community.‚?Ě
The chamber has been meeting with state legislators, including Toohil, her predecessor Todd Eachus and state Sen. John Yudichak, in effort to have the facility relocated for years, Palermo said. She said the chamber is aware of at least 30 incidents in which present or former MinSec residents were involved in serious crimes, among them a bank hold-up, a church robbery and a homicide.
Palermo said those incidents not only harm the businesses they target but have created an atmosphere of fear in the community, frightening residents away from public spaces such as libraries and playgrounds.
Community Education Centers of West Caldwell, N.J., operates offender re-entry and inpatient treatment services in 18 states and in Bermuda, according to the company‚??s website, which says the company runs outpatient drug and alcohol programs for the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, Jackson Township, and SCI Retreat, Hunlock Township.