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Outsourcing inmates goes $100,000 over Schuylkill budget

Published January 11. 2019 01:24PM

Schuylkill County officials have called it the biggest challenge they face — how and where to house prisoners when there’s no more room at the county prison. Schuylkill has been housing prisoners at facilities in other counties.

According to prison Warden Eugene Berdanier, the cost for the outsourcing of inmates for 2018 was $1,515,210. The county had budgeted $1.4 million to cover the expense in 2018.

In November, 68 inmates were housed elsewhere; in December, 79 were held in other counties. This month, 69 are housed in other facilities. The average daily cost for the outsourced inmates is $65-70 per day per inmate.

During a prison board meeting Wednesday, President Judge William Baldwin asked Berdanier how many inmates were participating in the work-release program. Berdanier said that the number was about 20.

“Do we have any way to move people around to cut down on the outsourcing?” Baldwin asked, and Berdanier said he would look into it. Prisoners on the work-release program are housed in an area separate from the prison’s general population.

According to the Adult Probation/Parole Department December report, 12 inmates participated in the work-release program, five in the vocational rehabilitation program and two in utility work for the prison. At that time, three men and one woman were awaiting approval for the work-release program, and three men were awaiting approval for the vocational rehabilitation program.

If there’s good news in the outsourcing program, it’s that Berdanier is “optimistic” about the results of a recent state inspection of the prison.

“I don’t think I’m being overly optimistic,” he said. “It went very well and I expect a very good outcome.”

In recent months an exercise yard has been added, along with numerous upgrades to the aging structure, including privacy/security fence installation, and cleaning and maintenance of heaters. A new security entrance area ramp is in progress with completion expected by the end of January.

Additional information from Berdanier’s report included:

• For 2018, total intakes were 2,981 and total discharges 3,020.

• The average length of stay, per inmate, is 30 days.

• During December 2018, there were 107 inmates on watches; 37 were detox watches and 70 were mental health watches.

• During December, there were five pregnant inmates.

• The vocational rehabilitation program completed 10 jobs during December. There were eight community service jobs and two jobs completed for the county.

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