Inmate chaplaincy services contract sparks concerns – The Bakersfield Californian

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Updated: November 8, 2022 @ 11:33 am
A deputy walks past inmates housed in the tier section in the maximum-medium facility at the Kern County Sheriff’s Lerdo facility in this file photo.

A deputy walks past inmates housed in the tier section in the maximum-medium facility at the Kern County Sheriff’s Lerdo facility in this file photo.
A contract to provide inmates with chaplaincy services drew scrutiny at the Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday with a competing contract-seeker making allegations to the board.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office initiated a request for proposals for a contract not to exceed $300,000, which drew two applicants — Los Angeles-based Prison Ministry America and local nonprofit Be Finally Free.
A bid was awarded to Prison Ministry America, prompting Debbie Ormonde, president of Be Finally Free, to say PMA has provided certain services insufficiently in the past.
Mark Maciel, president and executive director of Prison Ministry America, said some of Ormonde’s allegations were factually incorrect during the meeting, but did acknowledge some of her claims were true. Maciel did not return a request for comment.
“I feel like (my) talking (is falling) on deaf ears,” Ormonde said in a phone interview after the Board of Supervisors meeting. She has been volunteering as a chaplain for decades with the Sheriff’s Office.
Ormonde said during the meeting that she has had many problems with PMA over the last 10 years, which is what compelled her to speak. She said insufficient training was furnished — which could lead to litigation — and employees were paid late.
Maciel acknowledged problems with payroll during his comments to the Board, but also said it was not PMA’s fault. However, he refuted any claims of insufficient training being offered. Some employees failed to show up to training, he said.
“I am sad to hear — even from the religious point of view — as to downgrade an organization who’s been here, been established,” Maciel said in speaking to the board.
Maciel added the department has already addressed many of their issues.
Detentions Lt. Jacob Pierson said during the meeting the KCSO conducted an investigation into allegations made by Ormonde and uncovered no wrongdoing. Undersheriff Doug Jauch said the Sheriff’s Office addresses any instances of substandard services and attempts to fix them.
“You have our assurance on that,” Jauch added.
Pierson said inmates have filed 10 grievances in the last two years but they revolved around religious diets rather than religious items, such as Bibles.
Ormonde noted during a phone interview she didn’t fault the Sheriff’s Office for this problem. However, she wants to reduce Kern County’s high crime and recidivism rates. Solving these problems comes from her consistently being with inmates and providing wraparound services — it’s those relationships and education which deter inmates from going down the same path again, she noted.
A Los Angeles-based company cannot do that, Ormonde said, while adding all she wants is to make sure inmates get proper services.
It is unclear how long the contract for Prison Ministry America will last. KCSO spokeswoman Lori Meza wrote in an email Tuesday that KCSO is working to gather the information.
Supervisors said little about the dispute, though 4th District Supervisor David Couch did establish payment is made after the county provides money to Prison Ministry America, which then pays its employees.
“There’s obviously more going on there — I think — than what we are hearing about,” Couch said.
The item passed as part of a unanimous approval of the consent calendar, with Fifth District Supervisor Leticia Perez abstaining from the vote on this particular item. Third District Supervisor Mike Maggard was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @_ishanidesai on Twitter. 
Positive Cases Among Kern Residents: 292,459
Deaths: 2,566
Recovered and Presumed Recovered Residents: 287,970
Percentage of all cases that are unvaccinated: 72.13
Percentage of all hospitalizations that are unvaccinated: 83.20
Source: Kern County Public Health Services Department
Updated: 11/03/22
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