Updated 05/11/2012 06:27 PM
Bradford County considers expanding county jail
One Northern Tier prison is running out of space and now officials are considering expansion options. The Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections toured the Bradford County Correctional Facility Friday to take a look at the overcrowded jail. Our Lara Greenberg has more on the project ideas they are now tossing around.
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WEST BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- There are 177 inmates currently living in the Bradford County Correctional Facility. Another 13 are forced to live in other counties, thanks to the prison’s overcrowding problem.
"It puts a strain on everything in the jail. More inmates need more services, so our staff is stretched thin trying to keep up with what the minimum standards are," said warden Donald Stewart.
Until now, the county commissioners considered a half-million dollar project that would convert the jail's gym into a housing unit.
But after the state Secretary of Corrections, John Wetzel, toured the facility Friday, all three commissioners and Wetzel decided it was best to gather more data.
"The question is who's crowding and why they're crowding. So is it a big increase in the pre-trial population? Is it a big increase in the sentence population?" asked Wetzel.
A deeper assessment would investigate ways to alleviate the number of people in the facility before spending thousands to expand it. An option that all the commissioners can get behind.
"As we move forward, we've got to keep that in mind first and foremost that this is a huge decision financially and any kind of expansion means costs every year because you're paying more and more staff to house more and more inmates," said Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith.
And if there's a way to fit all the county's inmates into one facility, they're prepared to do it.
The commissioners hope to have an assessment completed in a few months.
If they proceed with an expansion project, Smith says they'll consider using money from the gas drilling impact fee to pay for it. The impact fee was passed last month.