The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 28, 2013

Residents invited to tour county prison

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — After all the talk of building a new prison in Northumberland County, Commissioner Steve Bridy said if people want to visit the Sunbury jail, they should.

Bridy said the jail is paid for by tax dollars, and any resident has the right to call the Northumberland County Prison and arrange for a tour.

“Anybody can do that,” Bridy said. “If they have questions or concerns, they can call and schedule an appointment.”

The county has been faced with several jail-related issues over the course of the last few months which have led the commissioners to begin looking at the possibility of building a new jail — or fixing the old one.

“We have a major problem with the prison,” Commissioner Vinny Clausi said. “We have to act now, and we must begin to look at what we can do to correct this.”

Clausi did not specifically say what problems have been occurring, but that he toured the jail on three consecutive days last week.

“I have been doing my own investigating in there,” he said. “I am letting everyone know that we can correct these problems, but we need to start to address them now.”

Bridy agreed the prison needs to be looked at, but said the jail has history and tours of it could send a positive message to the youth of the county.

“I think it’s beneficial to have our youth see this and see what happens if you break the law,” Bridy said. “These tours can give them a taste of what could possibly be in store if they end up in trouble. I want to take my two older girls to view the prison and not just as a way of keeping them on the straight and narrow but to show them the history involved.”

Residents interested in tours can call Warden Roy Johnson or Cmdr. Brian Wheary, Bridy said.

“You can’t just show up,” he said. “We used to do tours all the time. I have to say that Warden Johnson knows the prison. He has so much knowledge of the history of the jail.”

Bridy said the cell doors are very low inside the more than 100-year-old jail for a reason.

“It was constructed that before an inmate or anyone entered a cell they would bow down,” he said. “What they did that for was a sign of penance, which is where penitentiary came from. There is a good history lesson to be learned as well.”