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Nesquehoning police probing disturbance at county prison

Published April 19. 2012 05:01PM

Nesquehoning police are looking into a disturbance at the Carbon County Correctional Facility on April 7. Warden Joseph Gross said Wednesday that details would not be released until the investigation is closed.

"We have taken some disciplinary action against those involved in-house," he told the county Prison Board.

Efforts to reach Nesquehoning Police Chief Sean Smith were unsuccessful early Thursday.

In other matters Wednesday, Gross reported that correctional officer Sgt. John Gablick has been suspended without pay, "with a decision at a further time" whether to fire him. Gross would not release details on why Gablick was suspended.

Also, prospective employees at the prison will likely have to pay upfront for their drug tests and psychological evaluations, and be reimbursed after 30 days of employment, pending approval by the county Board of Commissioners.

Currently, the payments come out of the county prison's budget.

Gross said that two recent events prompted the move: One employee left for another job after working only one and a half days, and another never showed up at all. That, Gross said, cost the prison $200.

The Prison Board also agreed to look into purchasing a trailer from North East Motor Freight, Lehighton, to use for storage. Gross said that costs prevented the prison from building a storage shed, but that space is needed.

The board also agreed to seek bids for a lightning suppression system for the prison. The prison, on top of Broad Mountain in Nesquehoning, is often struck by lightning. Recently, a lightning strike cut off power to a freezer. The shut-off was discovered quickly, and the food inside was used promptly, so there was no loss.

The matter was discussed in past months, and specs were drawn up in preparation for seeking the bids. In February, county solicitor Dan Miscavige said that Schade Engineering Inc., which the county hired in July 2011 to prepare specs at a cost of $4,700, had not been communicating with the county.

The system could cost as much as $50,000 in addition to engineering fees. the money was not included in the prison's 2012 budget, Gross has said.

The board also discussed the burgeoning prison population, which as of Wednesday stood at 152 inmates, not counting the ones out on furlough. That prompted discussion of expansion.

Deputy Warden Tim Fritz had researched costs of adding a temporary addition. The cost would come to $25 per bed per day, and would house about 60 inmates.

Gross said that was too expensive, and instead suggested turning the prison gym into a housing unit. He said doing that would cost about $35,000 to $40,000, and would create space for another 30 to 40 beds for work release or low-risk inmates. An additional $35,000 to $40,000 would pay to have the three exercise yards enclosed to be for year-round recreation.

Commissioners Chairman Wayne Nothstein cautioned that the county would have to be sure to comply with building codes if it were to follow through on the idea. County Controller Bob Crampsie suggested forming a committee to explore Gross' suggestion.

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