Carbon County is looking into more ways to cut down on prison overcrowding.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board voted to approve a grant application through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for Carbon County's Restrictive Intermediate Punishment Project (home electronic monitoring). The county is requesting $11,286 in match-free funds.
Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard said he read an article in the TIMES NEWS, published on April 8, about the pre-release program in Schuylkill County and how it has helped decrease the number of inmates in the prison.
He said that he spoke with Ron Kokinda, director of the county adult probation office, and asked why Carbon isn't utilizing ankle bracelet monitoring more. Gerhard will now speak with President Judge Roger Nanovic about the matter, but said it seems like this is a real possibility to help cut down on the overcrowding issue.
"We want to decrease our prison population that has been an ongoing problem for us," he said. "When we have the overcrowding problem that we have and we're seeing it is working in Schuylkill, why can't it work in Carbon?"
Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek added that the action taken Thursday came from a request by the courts, which shows a "willingness to help."
"The more you can keep out of the jail, the less cost you have there," he said.
If the county would receive the funding, the bracelets would be used to monitor level three and four DUI offenders. They would serve a split sentence, meaning half of their sentence would be carried out in prison, while the remaining half would then be on home monitoring by the ankle bracelets.
Gerhard said that if the county does this, the costs would be for additional probation officers to help monitor the additional offenders in the program. The county would offset a small amount of the cost because the people using the bracelets are required to pay $15.
In 2013, the county had 32 DUI offenders sentenced to the home electronic monitoring program.
The county will now continue to investigate its options.
In other matters, the commissioners authorized the filing of a mandamus complaint against Richard Swarcheck, former tax collector of Mahoning Township.
County solicitor Daniel Miscavige explained the reason for the complaint is because there are some loose ends that have yet to be cleaned up with Swarcheck being terminated last year. The complaint is expected to be filed in court next week.
O'Gurek said that he voted yes with reservations, but said that one of the biggest loose ends he feels needs to be resolved is what legal authority the Lehighton Area School District had to collect taxes.
"I think part of this whole messed up affair was Lehighton School District, last year, deciding that they could collect taxes, open mail in Mr. Swarcheck's name and open an account in the district in his name," O'Gurek said, adding that to this day, the county has yet to receive the approximately $4,000 that is owed to them through taxes collected by Lehighton School District. "I would like to see something that states that Lehighton School District had the authority to take it upon themselves to become a tax collector. I don't think they did."