COVID-19 Concerns Top Prison Board Meeting

CLEARFIELD – COVID-19 concerns are being taken seriously in Clearfield County and at Tuesday’s Prison Board meeting the commissioners and other board members discussed measures being taken to reduce risk.

Commissioner John Sobel said that the commissioners are asking anyone who intended to attend the next commissioners’ meeting to instead stay home and submit their questions or comments via letter, e-mail or by calling the office.

He said public access to the buildings is going to be restricted and while the meeting will be open to the press, it will be otherwise closed.

District Attorney Ryan Sayers asked if they can do this legally due to the Sunshine Law and Sobel said he understands that the recent disaster declaration by the commissioners allows for business to be done in this manner, according to information supplied by the county solicitor.

Furthermore, Sobel said that any access to county government buildings will be reduced to appointment only.

In regards to Clearfield County Jail, no visitors are permitted at the jail at this time and only essential personnel, police, probation and mental health counselors are permitted inside.

Warden Greg Collins said all other classes and groups have been suspended.

The board discussed other changes due to the pandemic, including the fact that Jefferson County is currently not taking any more inmates from outside until further notice.

Centre County is still taking overflow inmates and the warden and commissioners are going to look into Clinton County as an option.

It was noted that the cost for Jefferson is $55 per day per inmate, while Centre is $65 per day. There was no information regarding the cost for Clinton County.

The board discussed strategies if the county is unable to transport inmates to other locations and Collins said his biggest concern is medically-compromised inmates.

He said there is a variety of ages in the jail, and many of those with medical conditions are young inmates, though there are older inmates with issues as well.

Inmate temperatures are being monitored daily and staff are being encouraged to stay home if they are sick.

“We want to isolate that population as much as we can,” Commissioner David Glass noted. Currently the population at the jail is 159, with 13 in Jefferson County and two in other facilities.

Later in the meeting, President Judge Fredric Ammerman, chairman, asked if the annual inspection will take place this spring and Collins said that is up in the air, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up being cancelled.

He added that if the virus does show up in jails, the state Department of Corrections will shut everything down as far as inspections, transport and so on and they could end up with a huge overflow.

Collins said he is putting a plan in place now should that occur, but he expressed hope that it won’t.

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