County getting pressure to alleviate overcrowding
More financial woes face Schuylkill County as the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is pressing the county Prison Board to take immediate action to alleviate the overcrowding in the prison, while the state bureau reviews the plan submitted by the prison board to construct a building on the recreation area grounds inside the prison walls to house about 50 prisoners.
President Judge William E. Baldwin, who serves as chairman of the prison board, broke the news to board members at the monthly meeting, held Thursday at the courthouse in Pottsville. Baldwin reported he believes the plans for the additional structure will be approved, but the state wants immediate action to alleviate the problem.
Baldwin said he has been discussing with his adult probation department what options are available and will present them to the county commissioners for approval because there will be expenses involved. One option is to house prisoners in other prisons in the state, but the county would be obligated for paying for their housing.
Warden Eugene Berdanier reported the current prison population at 275 males and 53 females for a total of 328. The prison was built in the last century to house a maximum of 20l.
Baldwin requested from the county commissioners (all three serve on the board) to furnish additional computers for the prison to bring it up to date in technology. Commissioner George Halcovage told the board he and Commissioner Gary Hess had been in touch with other counties and state agencies to discuss a state network to share confidentially informations about prisoners.
Berdanier reported the monthly expenditures for operating the prison, which showed an increase.
The total expenditures were $397,649.41 for the month of April. One of the increases in costs was groceries because of the increased population. the grocery cost rose to $50,127.17 in April. He also reported on maintenance and repair costs, which came to $2,047.92 for replacing a circuit breaker, maintenance of a sewer line, repairs to a clothing dryer, and freezer temperature control. A prisoner who was caught blocking a drain pipe should be charged with criminal mischief and the costs of repairs assessed on him.
Berdanier also reported there is one staff vacancy, a shift lieutenant, and applications are under review. Under a union contract, annual distribution of uniforms to correctional officers is being processed.
Also, some policy changes have been finalized, based on Department of Corrections recommendation. The key policy change pertained to the control room, and other policy and procedures are still being evaluated for improvements, but cannot be revealed due to involving security.
PrimeCare Medical Inc., Harrisburg, which has a contract to provide medical service to inmates, reported 214 were seen by nurses on sick call, 68 were seen by a psychiatrist, 42 were seen by dentists, 113 visited clinics, and 15 were on suicide watch, with no incidents reported.
John H. Huth, work release coordinator, reported 21 inmates were on work release and paid $3,264 for room and board, and $2,275.50 was collected toward their fines and costs. Seven females are in the program.
The Vocational Rehabilitation Program completed 21 jobs and spent two days providing services to 100 senior citizens, recommended by the Office of Senior Service Agency. Five jobs were completed for the county and 14 for communities.