Work Release Program Discussed at Prison Board Meeting

CLEARFIELD – After two months with no quorum for meetings, the Clearfield County Prison Board was able to have a meeting yesterday and had three months’ worth of items to review.

Board member and County Controller Tom Adamson spoke to the board about a review his office did of accounts at the Clearfield County Jail and wanted to talk about the work release program.

Statistics for the past three months showed no more than three inmates on work release and in general the program averages around two. In 2014, 15-20 inmates participated.

Adamson said that in 2013 the program generated $33,000 and the numbers have dropped steadily. So far this year only $6,000 has been generated. “There is no program,” he said.

Adamson referred to a letter he had written, which was included in the agenda packets. He asked how many inmates applied for work release in 2017 and how many were then denied.

He also asked if the policies and procedures put in place for the program need to be reviewed and revised, especially in regards to drug testing.

In doing the review, Adamson said he spoke with the district magistrates who regularly recommend work release for inmates and were surprised how many were denied.

He suggested that basing the decision on drug tests administered just as inmates are entering the jail could be preventing willing people from participating in the program.

Warden Gregory Collins reported that often people who come to the jail either don’t have a job, or lose their job shortly after. He said they have several employers they work with who will provide jobs for inmates, but that has become problematic.

For example, one inmate they helped to get clean and get a job, but once she was released from the jail, she didn’t show up for work anymore, making the employer wary of offering work to an inmate again. He said work release issues are a problem for other jails as well.

President Judge Fredric Ammerman added that they cannot tell how long ago a drug was taken either. The drug tests at the jail test for 11 substances, but to determine how “old” that substance in the blood is requires the samples to be sent to an outside laboratory. How long the drug remains in the system also depends on the drug and the amount taken. Collins said he has seen marijuana last up to 90 days.

After considerable discussion, the board agreed to have the personnel committee review the procedures, which have not been updated since 2002, and revisit the matter.

In July CCJ began with 167 inmates with 149 committed, 152 released and ending with 166. There were 29 on home detention.

August began with 166 with 152 committed, 149 released and ending with 168 and 26 on home detention. September began with 168, with 158 committed, 161 released and ending with 165 and 18 on home detention. Currently 14 are housed in Jefferson County and one in Centre County.

The board discussed again the issues with population and expenses. Ammerman said he and Judge Paul Cherry have packed schedules and the problem stems from the meth and opioid epidemic, which affects every aspect of life, including a rise in Children and Youth Services cases and other home problems.

At this time, meth is an even bigger problem than opioids with marijuana and alcohol taking something of a back seat, though they are still a problem as well.

“I don’t envy your job to try to find the money (for the budget),” he said to the commissioners regarding the budget. The commissioners are beginning to work on the 2019 budget and anticipate needing to increase the amount allocated to the jail.

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