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New program gives relief from overcrowding

Published November 14. 2013 05:00PM

The Schuylkill County Prison Board discussed the new prerelease program initiated in the adult probation office to assist with the overcrowding of prisoners in the county jail Wednesday.

President Judge William E. Baldwin, who is president of the board, reported 24 offenders were placed on prerelease status during the month of October, a total of 34 offenders were active on prerelease status saving 652 total jail days at the county prison. Only three were removed for violations and approximately 4,216 alcohol tests were administered and 83 drug tests were taken on 34 participants.

Baldwin said those placed in the program receive a closer monitoring by the probation staff who visit them several times a week.

Commissioner Frank Staudenmeier, at a commission meeting held before the prison board meeting, discussed the 2014 budget in which the commissioners are looking to increase the real estate tax by two mills.

He said the new program is an additional cost to the county and running into a million dollars as four probation officers were added to monitor the program. But he lauded the program as the right step in reducing the population at the prison and of the pressure put on the county by the state to reduce the overcrowding.

The prison was constructed in the mid-1850s, before the civil war, and was built to house a maximum of 200 inmates. Staudenmeier and Baldwin clashed over which direction to go to reduce the prison population.

Baldwin favored a new addition but Staudenameir wanted to explore all other possibilities. The state did not approve a plan the board presented for putting up an addition in the recreation yard of the prison.

Warden Eugene Berdanier reported in October the peak census was 303 inmates, including 51 females. As of Wednesday there were a total of 299 inmates, 248 being male and 51 female.

The warden also reported the revenue at the prison for October totaled $18,380, with $3,423 reimbursed for room and board from those in the work release section; $5,088 from the inmate phone commission; and $5,200 from social security.

The expenditures totaled $430,887, including $187,473 in salaries; $50,710 for overtime (this total included $36,535 pay out to 36 officers for unused holiday based on contract regulations); materials and supplies, $21,806; clothing and bedding, $5,352; groceries, $31,698; fuel, electric, water and sewer costs, $22,3912; for professional services for health provision to inmates, $85,819.

On the physical plant Berdanier reported a shower water mixer had to be repaired. An inmate damaged a bed bunk and Pottsville police were investigating for possible criminal charges.

Berdanier also said measures were taken for a proposed roof replacement. The warden also reported five correctional officers off-duty on medical leave were extended, one officer off on maternity leave, and mandatory sexual harassment training was under way.

A restraint chair has been ordered and a policy is being developed on the generally accepted correctional standards and policy of several counties and Prime Care, which provides health coverage, were reviewed.

PrimeCare Medical Inc. of Harrisburg, reported 189 inmates were on sick call in October, 45 were seen by dentists, 110 attended in-house clinic, and 15 were on suicide watch with no incidents.

Work Release Coordinator Joseph F. Huth reported 23 inmates were housed in the work release section, 13 inmates participated in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program.

The rehab program completed 23 jobs with seven days spent providing services to 100 senior citizens as referred by the Office of Senior Services, nine community jobs were performed, and seven jobs for the county.

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