Changes to a program at the Carbon County Correctional Facility will affect municipalities and inmates alike.
During the monthly meeting of the county prison board, Frank Shubeck, the prison work release/treatment director, announced changes to the current inmate work program, which was implemented in 2007, because of funding issues. The program was costing the county $24,473 to operate annually.
Shubeck said there were six changes to the program, which were decided upon during a committee meeting earlier this month. The committee consisted of Shubeck, Commissioners Charles Getz and William O'Gurek, county controller Robert Crampsie, and county administrator Randall Smith.
The changes they recommended include cutting the program from full-time to limited/part-time availability; implementing a $100-a-day supervision fee to any municipality, township, school district or nonprofit agency that utilizes inmates for projects; correctional staff will remain the supervision for all inmate workers while completing any projects; changing how the inmate is compensated for their work; limiting the number of community projects; and giving priority to all county projects, as well as litter crew work in both the spring and fall.
These changes, effective immediately, modify the program significantly.
When the program was implemented, instead of compensating the inmates for their day of work, it was designed to take time off their sentences.
For example, if an inmate worked eight hours, he got eight hours off his sentence. If he worked three eight-hour shifts, he got a day off his sentence.
Now it will compensate them for their work on a monthly basis.
The board agreed that these changes were necessary due to the fact that funding was becoming an issue. Last year, the county received a $4,200 grant to help cover the cost of a part-time correctional officer, who filled in for the full-time officer when he went out with inmates on work detail.
Following a brief discussion, Commissioner Wayne Nothstein made the motion to accept the changes. The motion passed unanimously.
In addition to the changes in the inmate work program, Shubeck also updated the board on previous changes that had been made.
Last month, Shubeck and Warden Joseph Gross talked to the board about allowing work release eligible inmates out on five four-hour furloughs to try and find employment. This was due to the fact that only one inmate on work release was currently employed.
This month, Shubeck reported that two inmates utilized the furloughs over the last few weeks and they did find employment within the allotted 20-hour search period.
Shubeck also reported that the response from municipalities who are willing to pay the $100 a day fee for utilizing inmates was minimal. The only municipality that said it would pay the fee was Palmerton.