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Prison explores ways to stop overcrowding

Published January 16. 2014 05:00PM

Carbon County prison officials are looking into ways to cut down on the inmate population.

During the monthly meeting of the county prison board Wednesday, Commissioner Wayne Nothstein discussed the group's recent visit to a day reporting center in Luzerne County. A day reporting center allows non-violent offenders, such as DUI charges, who meet certain requirements, to serve part of their sentence outside the prison walls.

Nothstein said for example, a judge can sentence a person to one year six months incarceration and six months to the day reporting center. That person would then finish out the sentence by reporting daily to the center to receive treatment and complete advanced programs.

The goal of these centers is to reduce inmate population, as well as repeat offenders.

Nothstein said the visit was informative, but costs associated with the program are a little alarming, especially since the county doesn't know if it would be beneficial to solving the prison overcrowding problem or not.

The current inmate population as of Wednesday was 187, down from the 2013 high of 215.

Robert Crampsie, county controller, agreed, saying that the program was impressive, but he is concerned about the operation budget, as well as the number of inmates that need to be involved in the program.

Commissioner William O'Gurek added that he feels this type of program works best for bigger counties, but would like to see the figures on savings to these counties before considering creating one in Carbon.

"We need more data," O'Gurek said. "I don't think it is affordable unless someone can show me that it is the way to go to reduce the burden on this facility."

Nothstein said that other options the county may be forced to investigate if nothing is done to help overcrowding is a prison expansion. Adding on to the current prison would cost millions, he continued.

Nothstein said that he would like to contact Union County, who runs its own day reporting center, and see what its operations are like.

In other matters, the board is still looking into creating a firing range on the grounds of the prison. The purpose of the range is to allow prison personnel to get certified without having to travel off-site.

Frank Shubeck, prison work release/treatment director, said that the Nesquehoning Planning Commission reviewed the plans and made some stipulations to allow the prison to move forward with the project.

The plans are now waiting to go before the borough zoning hearing board for review.

Some members voiced their concern over some of the stipulations put on the plan by Nesquehoning.

Daniel Miscavige, county solicitor, said that the stipulations are recommendations, and will be addressed in further detail at the hearing at a later time.

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