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Solutions sought for Carbon prison overcrowding

Published May 17. 2012 05:01PM

Carbon County's prison is working on temporary solutions to its overcrowding problem.

During Wednesday's county prison board meeting, Warden Joseph Gross updated the board on what is being done to provide more space for the inmates.

He noted that as of yesterday, the inmate population was 192. Of that total, there are 178 inmates being housed in the Broad Mountain prison; with about six weekend inmates who come in for their sentence on weekends; and others being held at other facilities.

Gross explained that contractors have been contacted to give an estimate for putting roofs on the recreation areas so that they can be used year round; and that the gymnasium renovation project is moving forward.

Two months ago the board began talking about converting the gymnasium into a housing unit for one of the inmate blocks.

As of yesterday, Gross said the shower installation is expected to be completed this week; and a urinal trough was purchased and will be installed in the new bathroom to accommodate the 20 or more inmates expected to be housed in the gym.

Once work is completed, Gross plans to move the medium II area, which currently houses 22 inmates, to the gym; and shift the female block to fill the medium block while making room for a quarantine area.

In addition to renovation work, members of the board plan to meet next week to discuss other possible solutions to the overcrowding issue at the prison.

In other prison matters, Gross updated the board on two issues that occurred at the prison last month.

He said that Nesquehoning police and the district attorney's office are currently still investigating and once information can be released, it will.

Frank Shubeck, work release director, also told the board that the inmate work program is moving along well.

Weatherly borough recently hired a few work release inmates, who are low risk individuals sentenced for crimes like DUI and who are approved to the program, to help with a project in the borough; and a 12-week job in the Palmerton Area School District is slated to start in the middle of June.

The inmate work program allows municipalities to hire work release inmates, at a fee of $100 a day, payable to the prison for operations of the program.

Shubeck then asked if he should send inmates to Mauch Chunk Lake Park to help with projects because 25 percent of the grant for the program has already been used for the year.

Robert Crampsie, chairman of the board; and Commissioner Wayne Nothstein said they felt that would be a good idea to help at the lake because the staff at the park is currently short-handed.

Sheriff Dwight Nothstein added that to help at the park, maybe the county should reach out to the local Boy Scout troops to see if they would like to help by doing a service project or Eagle Scout project at Mauch Chunk Lake.

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