Humpday Hall of Shame: High Point, NC Planning & Zoning Commission

Welcome to The Humpday Hall of Shame – every Wednesday we’ll highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

This week's Hall of Shame inductee is the Planning & Zoning Commission in High Point, NC.  Last night its members had an opportunity to halt The GEO Group from building a for-profit facility for the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.   A rezoning motion (Zoning Case 11-16) would have halted the troubled private prison corporation’s proposed forensic psychiatric hospital at the U.S. 311 and Greensboro Road interchange.

The commission issued a unanimous recommendation opposed to a City Council request to rezone the Evergreens Senior Health Care property, a request by the Council that would have prevented industrial use and block the facility.

This summer the General Assembly mandated that the Department of Health and Human Services merge its forensic psychiatric health components at the Dorothea Dix Hospital and Central Regional Hospital into one facility. The GEO Group was responding to an RFP issued through that mandated consolidation.

Given this provider’s spotty record around safety issues, there is great concern because of the level of patients who many be at the facility.  They include mentally ill individuals charged with serious crimes, including capital crimes, sexual assaults, and other violent crimes, and may include those with pathologies such as antisocial personality disorder or schizophrenia/psychotic disorder.  The patients are often found not guilty for reasons of insanity, or they are individuals who cannot be tried because they don't understand the charges against them.

Many residents oppose the facility based on fears for their safety or the effect it might have on property values.  A resident remarked, “I hope that the president of GEO Care wants to buy my house because no one else ever will.”

Others are opposed because they believe that a for-profit prison corporation should not run a facility of this kind.  As a part of the criminal justice and mental health systems, it must have accountability, transparency, and responsibility.  We agree with them, housing the mentally ill in the criminal justice system is not, and should never be, a moneymaking endeavor.

Please call the High Point City Council and the Mayor.  They will be considering the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendations at their 5:30 pm meeting on Monday, December 19th. Let them know that you oppose private prison corporations running hospitals for the mentally ill and that the City of High Point can make a courageous stand against them.

Rebecca R. Smothers, Mayor

Latimer Alexander, Mayor Pro Tem

Britt Moore, At Large

Bernita Sims, Ward 1

Foster Douglas, Ward 2

Michael D. Pugh, Ward 3

AB Henley, Ward 4

M. Christopher Whitley, Ward 5

James Corey, Ward 6