December, Lamont McClure was the sole vote against a $5.5 million plan to reduce recidivism at the Northampton County jail by treating inmates instead of just warehousing them. He opposed a five-year contract with Community Education Centers to provide substance abuse programs called the Future Foundation program for men, Sister to Sister program for women and the West Easton Treatment Facility program. Now he is asking Controller Steve Barron for a performance audit to determine whether the program really works.
"We've invested millions of dollars and have committed to millions more without any definitive evidence that any of the programs are returning any benefit to the County taxpayer," he argued at a February 6 County Council meeting. "I know it feels good," he acknowledged. But he questioned whether this is the "kind of program that should be going on at our jail." Disputing whether the program really reduces recidivism, McClure has argued the focus instead should be on educating inmates, ensuring they have GEDs. He also stated that the overall recidivism rate at the jail has not declined appreciably.
McClure repeated most of the arguments he made when he was the sole dissenting vote against this contract.
McClure told Council members that he would work with the Controller to come up with parameters for the audit. "I don't think we need a resolution," he assured Council members.
That argument was disputed by Council members and the Controller himself.
Barron said he'd prefer to have a resolution from Council setting the parameters, which was also urged by Council members Scott Parsons and Hayden Phillips. Barron also advised Council that he will render no opinion on the efficacy of the program, calling it a legislative and executive matter. "I'd like direction from Council," he said.
Council member Bob Werner questioned whether Barron is qualified to do a performance audit. Barron responded that his office does them for programs and contracts quite regularly. "My staff is very,very intimately involved or knows the inner workings of the prison," Barron assured Werner.
McClure agreed to work on a resolution himself, based on the input of council members. He indicated that the matter need not be heard first by Mat Benol's Courts and Corrections Committee.
According to the Government Accounting Office, a performance audit is an "objective and systematic examination of evidence to provide an independent assessment of the performance and management of a program against objective criteria ... ."
Though McClure was the sole vote against this contract in December, he appears to be using a performance audit to defeat it now. This report will be prepared by a Controller who supported his Executive race and introduced him when he announced.
I think we already know what Barron will conclude.