By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — With “problem after problem and lawsuit after lawsuit,” it’s time Northumberland County builds a new prison, Northumberland Commissioner Vinny Clausi said Tuesday.
Clausi asked Commissioners Rick Shoch and Steve Bridy to join him in planning a new county prison.
“It’s time. guys,” Clausi said. “Millions of dollars of lawsuits are coming in and we receive lawsuit after lawsuit and it’s one problem after another with the prison.”
Clausi said his concerns about the county lockup, which was build in the 1870s, have increased following recent visits there.
“I can’t say what I saw or what the problem is,” Clausi said. “But I visited the jail last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and I believe it is now time to start to move forward on this before we are shut down and it costs the county millions to move these prisoners.”
Clausi would not disclose what the problems were, but in the past two weeks, there was a eight-person class action lawsuit filed against the prison for several reasons, including inhumane conditions.
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, two former PrimeCare Medical Inc., Harrisburg, employees came forward and complained the company was not treating inmates’ medical needs properly.
Clausi wouldn’t say if any of the incidents prompted his plan, but did say the problems at the jail are massive.
“I visited other county prisons across the state,” Clausi said. “Let me just say it’s time for us to build a new one.”
“I think this is something we need to look into,” Shoch said. “We need to look at all our options, and it is an old prison, and we need to look at building a new one and how much it will save us in the long run.”
Bridy also concurred.
“I have already called the United States Army Corps of Engineers to look at this,” he said. “A new prison can pay for itself in the long run.”
Building a prison that can hold up to 600 inmates is something Clausi hopes to accomplish.
“I spoke with several different prisons, and I will be speaking with government officials about housing immigrants as well,” he said. “These are the nonviolent immigrants that the government pays about $79 a day for prisons to house.”
Clausi said the county can potentially make $6 million a year and the net take could be $3.2 million.
“We need to talk to our congressman and everyone that we can,” he said. “This is something I have been looking at for quite some time and I knew the day was coming. We can’t sit back any longer. This doesn’t mean we are going to be doing this today, but it means we need to start moving now because we are dangerously close to having a massive problem.”
Clausi said he also is willing to sit down with representatives of the Lewisburg Prison Project to hear their views.