SELINSGROVE — Snyder County Prison Warden Shawn Cooper is leaving the job at the end of the year.
“I’ve reached my retirement age and I’ve got 20 years in,” the 59-year-old said. “The past 1 1/2 years have been pretty trying with the pandemic. It’s changed the dynamics of work and put things in perspective for me.”
Cooper has worked at the county jail since 1999, starting as a corrections officer and later elected as union steward before being promoted to deputy warden in 2011.
He has been at the helm of the facility located outside Selinsgrove since May 2014 when he was tapped to succeed Ruth Rush who was warden for 19 years.
He and his wife, Kelly, with whom he has two adult sons, have discussed early retirement for a few years.
“She’s very supportive,” said Cooper.
Commissioner Joe Kantz said he wishes Cooper well in retirement despite trying “to talk him out of retiring.”
Although the last several past wardens have been promoted from the position of deputy warden, which is currently filled by Richard Frampton, Kantz said the job will be advertised.
Cooper said the work involved in running a county jail has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic just as the prison population has been decreasing significantly in the past six months.
On Tuesday, the 138-bed facility had 53 inmates.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cooper said of the low number of inmates.
Snyder County Judge Michael H. Sholley attributed the declining population in part to more inmates being placed on house arrest or on electronic monitoring.
“I don’t believe in long-term county sentences,” he said. “It keeps people from being able to take care of their family, people lose their jobs and there are few services available” in jail.
Sholley said Snyder County is working to provide a re-entry program to inmates but he said the goal will continue to curtail long-term county sentences.