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Prison going hi-tech

Published June 24. 2010 05:00PM

Carbon County is moving forward on getting an electronic fingerprinting and photographing system up and running at the prison in Nesquehoning.

During the monthly meeting of the county prison board, members discussed the proposed policy and procedures and operators for the Live Scan Booking station and Commonwealth Photo Imaging Network. They also discuessed a grant that could help cover the majority of the first year's costs; and the work that still needs to be completed before the system can be utilized.

James Dodson, chief juvenile court officer, distributed copies of the proposed policy and procedures for the system.

He then answered any questions the board had in regard to the policy.

Dodson also explained that a total of 20 officers three corrections officers and 17 police officers have been trained to use the system.

He said all were eager to begin using Live Scan to fingerprint individuals.

"After the training, they asked if they could use the system that same day," Dodson said.

There are four types of individuals police and corrections officers will be fingerprinting. They are Megan's Law defendants; individuals who were arrested and will be placed in prison immediately; individuals who were arrested for smaller crimes like driving under the influence and are not immediately placed in prison; and area residents who need fingerprint cards for employment purposes.

Currently, the Megan's Law portion of the Live Scan system is the only operational portion. This is due to the area where the system is located has not been secured to date.

The board discussed what needs to be done to secure the area and begin using the system, which they've had since 2008. This includes the installation of a secure door into the room.

Charles Neff, maintenance supervisor at the correctional facility, explained that he is in the process of obtaining quotes for the project.

Following the discussions, Ronald Kokinda, chief of adult probation, announced that there is a three-year grant available through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency that could help offset a portion of the county's expenses.

Kokinda explained the grant would cover 75 percent of the first year's costs, which include set up fees, maintenance and a part-time operator's salary; 50 percent would be covered the second year; and 25 percent, the third year. Carbon County would need to spend at least $25,000 on the project in 2011 to be eligible for this grant.

If the county was awarded the grant, Kokinda said the only issue would be is that Carbon County would have to wait until Jan. 1, 2011, to install the secure door and begin operations using the Live Scan system.

He said that he believes Carbon would not have a problem securing the funds because PCCD is "anxious for Carbon County to get online with Live Scan."

Dodson added that by applying for the grant, it would give the team more time to train officers to use the system.

The board agreed with Kokinda's request and said that he can move forward with the application.

The county prison board has been working to get the Live Scan Booking Station and Commonwealth Photo Imaging Network, a booking station for taking criminals' photos and fingerprints electronically, up and running since June 2008, when the county prison board agreed to accept the piece of machinery from the Pennsylvania Police Chiefs Association (PCPA). The cost of the equipment if purchased, would have been $66,600.

Since then, the county has had to bid out a project to run fiber optics for the system, as well as install a new underground conduit from the Emergency Management Agency to the county prison, both located on the Broad Mountain in Nesquehoning, after learning that the current conduit that runs between the two facilities had sprung a leak and could potentially create a problem. BCI Communications of Monmouth, N.J., submitted the low bid of $27,778. This project was not in the initial setup cost estimates.

In other matters, Carbon County is getting closer to naming a new warden.

Following the meeting, Sheriff Dwight Nothstein said the county is currently in negotiations with the final candidates for the position.

An announcement is expected to be made in the next few weeks.

Carbon officials held two rounds of interviews for the position earlier this month.

No further information was available at this time.

Carbon County Correctional Facility has been operating under Timothy L. Fritz of Lehighton, the acting warden since April.

Fritz is filling the position that was held by former Warden James Youngkin, who retired on March 16, after 24 years of service in the corrections system.

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