MEDIA — Delaware County Council unanimously chose the three citizen members for the County Jail Oversight Board, including the founder of MVP Recovery, a former community outreach specialist to then-Chester Mayor John Linder and nurse Deb Love, who also served on the Board of Prison Inspectors, which the Oversight Board is replacing.
In October, Delaware County Council created the County Jail Oversight Board to oversee the operations at the 1,883-bed county prison. The nine member board will replace the five member Board of Prison Inspectors and will include county Executive Director Marianne Grace; Common Pleas Court President Judge Kevin F. Kelly or his designee; a second Common Pleas judge appointed by the president judge; county Sheriff Jerry L. Sanders Jr.; county Controller Joanne Phillips; county council Chairman John McBlain or his designee; and three citizens recommended by Grace and approved by county council.
On Wednesday, council did just that, unanimously consenting to having Brian Corson, Jonathan King and Deborah Love serve as the Oversight Board's first citizen members. Each will have a three-year term.
After receiving 35 applications for the volunteer positions, Grace said she interviewed 33 in person as two withdrew from the process.
She explained that Act 61, involving the establishment of a Jail Oversight Board, "is clear in saying that the responsibility of the board is the oversight of the operations of the jail, including the health and welfare of the inmates."
In addition, she said, it outlined that the three citizens should "be representative of broad segments of the county's population and that they need to have the knowledge and experience to meet the requirements of the Act, which is to oversee the operation of the jail."
Grace talked about her selection process.
"I just want to tell everyone that ... we have a number of people in our county who are very interested in participating in the process and I believe all want to do it for the right reasons," she said. "All were highly qualified who want to do it because they care. Overall, the theme I got from the people was to be a voice for the voiceless."
Corson is widely known for his work with MVP Recovery, a firm that offers a safe and sober living environment for those working or living in recovery from addiction.
"Brian is a wonderful example of someone who has gone through the experience and really has been successful on the other side and knows how to help people go there," Grace said.
One of Chester's Brothers of Concern and a member of Linder's Community Liaison team, King has been noted for his work with the Re-Entry Resource Center, having been honored as the Philadelphia Union's Hometown Hero five years ago for his work.
Grace noted his commitment to re-entry and to make the county a better place and said that dedication at looking at the re-entry issues for men and women coming from jail to successfully integrate into their communities and be productive members of it will serve well on the board.
Love has served on the prison board since March and professionally is a Registered Nurse who has been in charge administratively of some units at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.
With a 58-bed medical unit at the county prison, Grace said her expertise would be helpful with the high percentage of people coming through the jail with medical, mental illness and substance-abuse issues.
County Councilman Kevin Madden expressed some reticence with Love's selection.
"I do have to be candid," he said. "I have some degree of concern and skepticism about Ms. Love. I have watched her as a current member of the Prison Board ... since March and I've witnessed a great degree of silence on her part."
He said she was silent while overseeing conditions that he himself had great concerns regarding; however, he said he welcomed her proving him wrong.
"And I hope that she is far more engaged that I've seen so far," Madden said.
McBlain also expressed concerns he had.
"Individually, I think these three people are all fine individuals and will do fine," he said. "I think we fell short in terms of the type of breadth that I would have liked to have seen in terms of different backgrounds ... What I don't see in the future for this board is who speaks for the common man of Delaware County? Who will speak for the victims of crimes? Who will speak for law enforcement?
"When we talk about our jail, it's not some standalone facility that sits out in Thornbury," he added. "It is part of a criminal justice system here in Delaware County, intertwined with all other aspects of criminal justice ... I think sometimes we lose sight of that."
McBlain said he plans to exercise his right to appoint a designee whom he said will represent one of those interests.
Councilman Brian Zidek said he felt that Sheriff Sanders who will be serving on the board, will ably represent the viewpoints of law enforcement.
The first meeting of the Jail Oversight Board is being scheduled.