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Carbon prison is catching up on inmate transfers

Published August 16. 2018 12:37PM

Carbon County Correctional Facility is catching up on state inmate transfers caused by paperwork holdups at the clerk of courts.

During Wednesday’s board meeting at the prison, Sheriff Anthony Harvilla announced that thanks to the work of court administrator Greg Armstrong and Lehigh County staff members, the state inmate population at the county prison has been significantly reduced.

“With the help of the court administrator and the commissioners providing some assistance in getting some additional help, last week we moved six of the female prisoners that were waiting to be moved, and on the 28th, we’re going to move 10 of the male prisoners,” Harvilla said.

Commissioner William O’Gurek said that the transfer of state inmates has helped provide some relief for an already overtaxed prison.

“All of this helps with our prison overcrowding problem. They should be in the state prison, and the only reason they’re not is because of the backlog of paperwork in the clerks of courts office and the nightmare that was left there,” O’Gurek said.

On average, transferring an inmate from the county to a state prison takes two or three weeks, during which time necessary paperwork is signed and filed, and arrangements for the transfer are made between the Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Corrections.

But due to issues at the clerk of courts office that were revealed last month, more than 20 inmates were held in limbo at the county prison.

Julie D. Harris, who served as the second deputy under clerk of courts William McGinley, has been serving as the acting clerk of courts, in addition to running the bureau of collections. State law calls for the acting clerk of courts position to be given to the first deputy, a position that has yet to be filled.

The county is awaiting state approval for Francine Heaney of Nesquehoning, the Democratic Party’s nomination to fill the vacancy, though the Senate and governor have yet to act on the issue.

In addition to overcrowding, Harvilla said that the county prison ends up footing the bill for prisoner expenses, and delays in transfers could also affect rehabilitation or punitive measures for the prisoners.

“It’s costly to the county to keep them here, for room and board,” Harvilla said. “The other issue is, it also prevents some of those inmates from entering into their programming, if they have a special program in the state sentence like intermediate punishment.”

Harvilla estimated that another 10 inmates have yet to be moved, but thanks to reworked and streamlined regulations, transfers should move quicker in the future.

“What we’re working toward is a policy where there’s going to be a specific set of guidelines for those who are sentenced to the state. I think that will make everybody happy,” he said.

The minions in blue will do what it takes to get you more prisoners. And why does the Sheriff have anything to say about the prison? His office is only a taxi service for the prisoners.

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