New Castle News

April 3, 2013

Jail preparing to house state parole violators

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The Lawrence County jail soon will be housing state parole violators.

Jail officials said Tuesday that state inmates — both male and female — could arrive as early as this week.

The county expects to house 40 of them at first, according to David Gettings, prison board chairman.

The county is entering a contract with Pennsylvania to house state prisoners who have been paroled, then had their parole revoked. They are being sent to various county jails throughout the state.

The county expects to receive $50 or more per inmate per day for their incarceration.

The county previously had housed state inmates who were considered to be nonviolent offenders and was paid $50 per day to keep them. But when a new state prison in Centre County was finished, the state inmates were moved out of the county in January, leaving empty beds and a gaping hole in the county budget.

In its budget this year, the county had an expected $800,000 in revenues from housing inmates. Two months of those revenues have been lost.

The commissioners said in January they expected to make up the shortfall with money from the county contingency fund, which has $700,000 budgeted.

The state now is offering to provide parole violators to fill those beds and provide the jail with income again.

Gettings noted the state is trying to negotiate a contract that is uniform for counties statewide, and the payment per day could end up being a little higher than the $50.

“We’re going to follow the existing contract until the new contract is all worked out,” Warden Brian Covert said.

Otherwise, the county’s contract with the state allows the jail to take up to 65 inmates from outside.

“It’s still in the infancy as far as how many they would bring,” Covert said.

He anticipates the state moving in five to eight inmates at a time, and the influx could be weekly. The movement will take place within a few weeks, and maybe as early as the end of this week, he said.

“Depending on the room we have, we could fill up pretty quickly,” Covert said.

As of Tuesday morning, the jail had 215 inmates. It can comfortably house about 275.

According to Gettings, county jail officials started training for the new intakes last week.

Covert explained counselors and a captain are preparing to provide state-required counseling programs that inmates must have while incarcerated. They include programs for alcohol abuse, domestic violence and a class for sex offenders.

“We will be able to offer those (state-required) programs here,” Covert said.