The alternative work program at the Carbon County Correctional Facility has been suspended indefinitely.
During the monthly meeting of the county prison board on Wednesday, Frank Shubeck, director of the work release program, announced that the alternative work program, which gives inmates the opportunity to work on community projects and receive time off their sentence, has been suspended due to misconduct and disciplinary problems from some of the participating inmates.
The program, which has been utilized by a number of municipalities and school districts over the last year, was designed to help both inmates and communities. Communities were charged a $100 a day fee to cover the expenses of an additional corrections officer supervising a number of inmates as they worked to complete various projects and inmates would receive time off their sentence for the time worked.
Shubeck said that some recent misconducts like unauthorized visits and trying to smuggle items back into the prison caused officials to temporarily suspend the program indefinitely and asked the board for guidance on how he should proceed in the future.
He noted that because of the suspension, he had to cancel the work scheduled for the Palmerton School District, which had booked inmates for a 12-week project over the summer months. The school district was now forced to make other arrangements to complete the project on time.
Shubeck said he has some concerns about continuing the program at this time because of the manpower shortage the prison currently is facing.
The board agreed that it will keep the program suspended until further notice.
In other matters, the board also discussed the lightning suppression system bid that was opened at last week's commissioners' meeting.
Only one bid, which came in at over $45,000, was received for the project. The commissioners then voted to table the bid until they decide what they should do.
Eloise Ahner, county administrator, said that since the bid was opened, the county has contacted a few of the other six companies that attended the prebid meeting but did not submit a bid to find out why they did not bid.
Robert Crampsie, chairman of the prison board and county controller, said that the county has the option to scratch the project for right now even though the county's insurance carrier recommended installing it.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein voiced his concerns about that option because costs for the project will not go down in the future and because there is no way to know when the next lightning strike will occur and damage electronics.
Commissioner William O'Gurek said that the project will cost close to $60,000 and that the insurance deductible is $1,000, and the county is still covered.
Nothstein responded that if this continues without a resolution, one time the insurance carrier may say they won't cover the prison anymore.
O'Gurek asked how many times the prison was struck by lightning.
Ahner said that it has been numerous times, but not strikes recently that caused extensive damage.
She added that it was over a decade ago when this recommendation to install a lightning suppression system first came to the prison board.
The board discussed if it would be better to accept the bid or rebid the project in the hopes to get more companies to bid.
It will come down to what the board of commissioners feels is best for the project.
Crampsie pointed out that the 911 communications center took a direct lightning strike in May, causing some damage.
Nothstein added that the back up paging system failed, which wasn't good because paging is critical in emergency situations.