The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 19, 2014

Prison board bans reporters from meeting inmates

SUNBURY — Members of the media will no longer be able to meet face-to-face with prisoners in Northumberland County, after the prison board voted Wednesday to ban the visits, with what Commissioner Rick Shoch calling in-person interviews “a drain on resources.”

Shoch said after word of Miranda Barbour’s murderous claims hit the media, several outlets inquired about face-to-face interviews with Barbour, who has since been moved to the State Correctional Institute in Muncy.

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

Assistant solicitor John Muncer said the policy should hold up legally, since inmates who wish to communicate with the media will still be able to do so via phone, letters and friends and relatives.

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

Commissioner Vinny Clausi, however, expressed support for media interviews of prisoner saying he thought the fact that 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 board passing an “anti-nepotism” policy.

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

Currently, Shoch is serving as interim chair, which was appointed during the board’s reorganization in January.

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