The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 6, 2013

County prisons address inmate capacity levels

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — Union County will renew an agreement to house prisoners with Centre County, a move spurred in part by a New Year’s Eve call from Northumberland County to come get its prisoners housed there because of crowding.

Under its intergovernmental housing agreement, Union County will pay Centre County $65 per day per inmate. It pays Northumberland about $60 a day.

“It’s having one more trick in the bag,” Commissioner John Showers said at Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting.

Commissioner Preston Boop, who also is chairman of the prison board, was clearly annoyed by what happened with the Northumberland County Prison. He learned of the situation Jan. 2 from Union County Warden Doug Shaffer.

“There’s no anger,” Boop said, “but there is some anxiety” of having to move prisoners on short notice.

Northumberland County had an influx of inmates because of a drug bust that occurred several weeks before.

Shaffer said he received the call New Year’s Eve morning from Northumberland County to remove four male and four female inmates, who were transferred to Montour and Snyder counties’ jails.

One female and two male inmates still are housed in the Sunbury prison. Union County also has agreements with Clinton and Columbia counties.

“We occasionally run into this situation with other prisons,” Boop said, “but it’s usually one person at a time and a segregation issue.”

Officials with the Union County warden and sheriff’s offices said they took the problem in stride.

“It was a little headache, not a big one,” Shaffer said.

Union County Sheriff Ernest Ritter III said the two deputies on the regular second shift took part in the move, and there were no overtime issues.

Showers said the situation owes itself to Union County “not having an expensive jail to fund. But I still believe we are saving money this way.”

Union County spent about $1 million in 2012 to hold criminals in other counties because of its own jail’s lack of space. Capacity is about 35 inmates at a cost of about $70 per day each.

Boop also noted that recently, Northumberland County said it wanted more prisoners from other counties as a revenue generator. In September, Northumberland County officials announced they hoped to release as many as 40 nonviolent offenders to a home confinement program, opening up more jail space for other counties’ inmates.

Northumberland County receives $60 to $100 from other counties to house an inmate for a day. By the end of July, the county had taken in just shy of $160,000 by housing prisoners from other counties.

Commissioner John Mathias was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

Warden Roy Johnson, of the Northumberland County Prison, was not available for comment Tuesday.