The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

March 20, 2014

Chiefs silence media

Prison board vote: Inmates, reporters banned from meeting

SUNBURY — The Northumberland County prison board Wednesday voted to ban journalists from meeting in person with inmates, a practice that put “a drain on resources,” Commissioner Rick Shoch said.

National media outlets sought to interview Miranda Barbour, who had been held in the county lockup from Dec. 3 until Feb. 21, after the suspect in a Valley killing told a reporter in a Feb. 14 jailhouse interview that she stopped counting at 22 the number of those whom she had slain.

“In one hour, we had three or four national media outlets either call or show up,” Shoch said.

Barbour, 19, and her husband, Elytte, 22, have been charged in the Nov. 11 slaying of Troy LaFerrara of Port Trevorton. Miranda on Feb. 21 was transferred to the State Correctional Institute in Muncy, while Elytte was transferred from Columbia County Jail to Northumberland County Prison.

Assistant solicitor John Muncer said the policy banning journalists’ in-person interviews should hold up legally, because inmates who wish to communicate with the media can do so by phone, letters and through friends and relatives.

Fellow Commissioner Stephen Bridy cast the lone vote against adopting the policy. District attorneys office representative Ann Targonski abstained.

Commissioner Vinny Clausi, however, expressed support for media interviews of prisoners, saying he thought the fact that Miranda Barbour was given a chance to speak openly “was a good thing.”

In another policy adopted by the board Wednesday, close relatives of current prison employees will not be able to work with their relatives, with the panel approving an “anti-nepotism” rule.

Under the policy, no one will be hired at the prison if any relative of that applicant or prospective employee closer than a first cousin related through blood or marriage is employed at the prison.”

Current employees will be grandfathered into the system, Shoch said.

Bridy and Clausi voted against the policy, with Bridy saying he is concerned the policy will “open (the county) up to litigation.”

The board tabled discussions concerning the hiring of private investigators and appointment of a new prison board chairman until later.

Shoch was appointed the board’s interim chairman in January.

 

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