The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 30, 2013

Commissioner demands answers about Northumberland County prison incidents

SUNBURY -  Two recent Northumberland County Prison incidents have a county commissioner demanding answers .

Commissioner Vinny Clausi was reacting to news that a guard was suspended on suspicion of bringing a cell phone into the prison for inmates to use and another guard was allegedly bringing drugs into the lockup.

The commissioner said Monday that he is fed up with having to deal with the county lockup and promises to “go public” every day until something changes.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “I can’t take it anymore.”

According to a person who was in a position to know, a female guard was caught after giving inmates a pre-paid cell phone to use in their cells.

County human resource director Joe Picarelli confirmed that a female guard was suspended without pay as of April 19.

Picarelli would not say what the suspension was for, but Clausi said he received word from prison Commander Brian Wheary about the incident after Clausi surprised prison officials with an early morning visit.

“Whoever brought this cell phone in must be fired,” Clausi said. “There was a cell phone found in a cell, and I will not stop investigating this until we have the answers.”

Clausi then exploded about a guard allegedly bringing in various drugs to the prison.

“We put people in jail for using drugs and now we may have someone bringing them in,” he said. “This is unheard of and it is unacceptable. This investigation will be over soon, and we will seek arrests.”

County Controller and prison board member Tony Phillips agreed.

“We will follow the law and we will do everything we can to stop this,” he said. “This is uncalled for and we need to find out everything we can and then we will follow the proper steps with the law.”

Clausi said: “We have management issues at this prison and this will change. I want to thank the public and families that are telling me what is really going on inside there. It’s a shame I have to depend on the innocent public to come to me instead of hearing these things from our own employees.”

Clausi said he hopes he has the backing of Phillips, President Judge Robert Sacavage and fellow Commissioner Steve Bridy.

“I urge the rest of the board to do what is right,” Clausi said.

“I warned this board weeks ago that if we didn’t start making changes I was going to go public with things about this prison.

“Until something changes I will continue to talk about what is going on. Stay tuned for tomorrow.”

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