Five new correctional officers were hired by the Schuylkill County Prison Board to fill vacancies at the county prison in Pottsville in action taken at the monthly meeting held Wednesday at the courthouse in Pottsville.

James Mansell, Tamaqua; Kayla Breznik, Shenandoah; Jonathan Pozza, Minersville; David Rainis, Ashland; and Brian Rice, Pottsville, were hired. The county salary board will act on setting the salaries at its public meeting next Wednesday.

The board also appointed Patrick John Mahoney, Pottsville, a retired U.S. Army officer, a correctional officer to the rank of lieutenant.

Hiring of the guards is an attempt to reduce the huge overtime paid to guards who have to work extra hours. Currently five officers were on medical leave, one officer suspended, and one officer was on restricted duty. Two officers retired, Henry "Hank" Faleski and Timothy D. Doyle.

Warden Eugene Berdanier reported last month $69,184.49 was paid in overtime which is straining the prison's budget. The monthly cost to operate the prison was $495,261.90, including $42,092.55 for groceries.

The warden also gave a report on the physical condition of the plant. Ventilating ducts throughout the prison were cleaned, new toilet and sinks installed in various cells and 102 door locks were replaced.

Berdanier reported he met with agents of the Department of Corrections Field Intelligence Unit to discuss a recent initiative by the DOC in identifying inmate "Security Threat Group" members, primarily gang related, and the sharing of that intelligence with county prisons.

Berdanier reported booking procedures are now scrutinized to incorporate the suggested assessments of the inmates during intake. He reported the current prison population was 208 males and 40 females.

PrimeCare Medical Inc., Harrisburg, which has a contract with the county to provide medical services to inmates, reported 186 inmates were seen by psychologists, 37 visited dentists, 97 were on sick call and 15 on suicide watch.

Joseph F. Huth, work release coordinator, reported 23 beds in the work release section were filled with inmates with employment, 10 inmates participated in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program. The monthly collection for room and board was $4,288 plus $1,600 toward their court costs.

The Vocational Rehabilitation Program completed 22 jobs with four days spent providing services to 100 senior citizens as referred by the Office of Senior Services and 15 community service jobs were performed and three for the county.

A report was given on the re-entry program provided for inmates who have completed their sentences and are returning to the community. Living quarters for 90 days are found to give them time to reintegrate into the community.