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Prison running out of room

Published June 20. 2013 05:03PM

Carbon County's prison population, already close to capacity, is swelling on weekends, thanks to more defendants being sentenced to serve their time from Friday through Monday morning, outside the workweek.

"We're still experiencing overcrowding on the weekends," said Warden Joseph Gross. "This past weekend, we were up to 206."

The prison was built to accommodate 172 inmates. Weekday population, he said, has been lower. On Wednesday, the total was 179 inmates.

"It's averaging between 179 and 186 during the course of the week," Gross said.

In addition to finding room for the overflow, more inmates mean more money the county has to spend to feed, clothe, house and guard them, and to provide medical care.

On Wednesday, the county Prison Board discussed how to get the county's three judges more involved in resolving the weekend population problem.

Commissioners Chairman Wayne Nothstein said he spoke last week with President Judge Roger Nanovic.

"His opinion is that it is a conflict of interest for him," Nothstein said.

He said that the county code provides for the president judge to sit on the board. In Schuylkill County, President Judge William Baldwin heads the prison board.

Nothstein said code also allows the judge to appoint someone to the board in his stead.

Nanovic does sit on the county's Criminal Justice Advisory Board, a group of top-level county officials who study and address the local criminal justice system, and make recommendations.

Gross asked the board if it planned to meet with Nanovic to talk about reducing the inmate population, perhaps through expanded use of electronic home monitoring. Nothstein said he "stressed the point of overcrowding at the prison" while talking with Nanovic.

"We are in very tight budget constraints because of the prison system, the court system," he said. Nothstein said he spoke with Nanovic about the importance of working with the board to reduce the numbers.

Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard Jr. said Nanovic had not responded to a letter asking him to participate.

"If he doesn't want to sit on the board, he can appoint someone," Gerhard said.

He suggested that Judge Joseph Matika may be a good option.

Commissioner William O'Gurek said Controller Robert Crampsie had told the board that he had talked with Adult Probation Director Ron Kokinda about expanding the use of electronic home monitoring.

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