Because of recent personnel problems at the Schuylkill County Prison, which led to firing several correctional officers, the county prison board has approved pre-employment testing for county prison correctional officers by licensed psychologists.

According to Warden Eugene Berdanier, tests will be administered after the prison board recommends a candidate along with the drug test and physical exam. Berdanier said in the past 10 years the average number of officers hired has been four per year. The approximate cost for four tests is $1,200 annually, using the Psychological Association of Schuylkill County rate or $840 using Jim Perkins, of Allentown.

Berdanier told the board he received sample copies of the test and believes they will be a good screening tool to determine whether candidates have the knowledge, skills, abilities and personal characteristics needed to perform the duties and tasks successfully. Tests would be administered to three top candidates before the final candidate is approved by the prison board.

In other matters, Berdanier reported the cost of operating the prison for the month of May totaled $311,882.31. The major costs were $153,916.82 for salaries, $49,363.80 for overtime and $57,405.38 for professional services.

Work is underway by WACOR to install piping and wiring for new security cameras throughout the prison, a handicap ramp was repaired, a steamer in the kitchen was repaired, new fans installed in the kitchen dish washer area and maintenance work was needed on a freezer which froze-up. The coal bin was filled in preparation for the winter.

The current prison population has 224 males and 32 females.

PrimeCare Medical Inc., Harrisburg, which provides medical services to the inmates, reported 99 inmates were on sick call, 188 were seen by psychologists, 40 were seen by dentists with 12 having extractions and 16 were on suicide watch with no incidents reported.

Stephanie Rice, of Clinic Outcast Group, Pottsville, spoke to the board about a federal grant of $35,000 received to provide housing for inmates. The board was not aware of such a grant and welcomed her to discuss putting the funds to good use.

President Judge William E. Baldwin said one of the problems the judges have in placing a prisoner on probation or parole is to make sure they have living quarters as in many cases the inmate is not welcomed back to his former residence. Rice plans to meet with the commissioners and their next week.

Twenty-four inmates qualified for the work release beds with three inmates removed from the program for violations. Nine inmates participated in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program completing 20 jobs with two days spent providing service to 75 senior citizens as referred by the Office of Senior Services and 15 community service jobs and six jobs for the county were completed.

The prison board is comprised of seven members, Judge Baldwin is chairman, Commissioners Mantura Gallagher, Francis McAndrew and Frank Staudenmeier, Sheriff Joseph Groody, District Attorney James Goodman and Controller Melinda Kantner make up the board.