Allegheny County pays Adelphoi $366,000 before juvenile detention center even opens

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Shuman Center on November 15, 2023. Photo by Jody DiPerna.

Allegheny County already has paid more than $350,000 to Adelphoi, months before the Latrobe-based nonprofit services provider will begin to operate the former Shuman Juvenile Detention Center. 

There is no clear timeline when the facility will open, and as of Dec. 1, Adelphoi had not yet applied for a state Department of Human Services license to operate the facility.

Adelphoi’s daily rate of $7,803 began Sept. 15, the day the contract was signed by County Manager Jen Liptak, and represents its charge for 12 beds at $650.25 per bed.

County Controller Corey O’Connor’s office confirmed that it authorized payments of $124,848 and $241,893 to Adelphoi on Thursday, Nov. 30, for September and October, respectively, totaling $366,741.

By year’s end, Adelphoi will have received $842,724 in county taxpayer money, before a single child is housed at the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar facility, which detains boys and girls prior to their court proceedings.  

The contract between Allegheny County and Adelphoi states that the payments are in recognition that Adelphoi will “expend substantial sums of money, resources, and effort to undertake whatever steps are necessary in order to provide and perform those services outlined in the Work Statement, including without limitation the hiring and training of appropriate staff.”

After renovations and construction, the daily fee will increase five-fold, as the number of beds is set to grow to 60, according to the contract. 

As reported last month, the contract was issued with virtually no public scrutiny or other government oversight. The Fifth District courts claimed a nonprofit exception and professional services exception to allow the five-year, $73.2 million contract to be issued without a public bid process or a sole-source justification.

Allegheny County issued a request for proposals for construction in August and will bear the estimated $6 million renovation cost, not Adelphoi.

The contract includes a clause that allows Adelphoi to renew the contract unilaterally, for a total value of nearly $150 million over 10 years.

The contract was signed in the final months of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s administration and two months before the retirement of Fifth District President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark.

It is not clear how the daily rate of $650.25 per juvenile was established. In November, Allegheny County spokesperson Amie Downs declined to answer how this rate was established, pending a county council lawsuit over the facility.

The state DHS told the Pittsburgh Independent and Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism in November that there is presently no written agreement between Allegheny County and DHS to establish state reimbursement share for the per diem cost to house children at the facility.

The county operated Shuman beginning in 1974 as a place to house children accused of serious crimes, prior to court proceedings. In September 2021, the facility closed after the county declined to appeal the state Department of Human Services’ revocation of the county’s provisional license for repeated violations, including “gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct in operating the facility.”

This story was edited by Bob Batz Jr. and Karen Carlin of the Pittsburgh Union Progress.

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He is a 2x 2023 Western PA Press Club Golden Quill award winner, in feature and business reporting. And a 3x finalist in the investigative reporting category.

He is a 2018 first prize winner in environmental reporting from the Keystone Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for reporting on lead in Pittsburgh’s drinking water.

In 2022 and 2021, he was awarded a grant from The Gumshoe Group to support his investigative reporting.

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Brittany Hailer is an investigative journalist with a focus on incarceration and mental health. She is a Teaching Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a 2022-2023 Fellow for the Law and Justice Journalism Project. Her work has been funded by The Pulitzer Center and Pittsburgh Media Partnership.

Her work has appeared in Sierra Club Magazine, NPR, Longform, Spotlight Pa, PublicSource and elsewhere.

Her memoir Animal You’ll Surely Become was published by Tolsun Books in 2018.