At Tuesday’s Clearfield County Prison Board meeting, the board talked about some updates the warden, David Kessling, is working on at the Clearfield County Jail, as well as the current lock down at the jail due to COVID-19.
Kessling has been working on bringing much of the jail up to date in many areas. One item briefly noted was a bill of $6,800 for plumbing, which Kessling said was to fix ongoing problems as there has not been anyone at the jail charged with maintenance.
Kessling is also working on creating a separate area for prisoners on work release, but that takes time. New beds were ordered, and have arrived, but it will still be a couple weeks before they are installed.
Additionally, two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 when they were not at work, but the result has been a lock down of the jail.
A lock down entails inmates staying in their cells except when they are needed at a hearing or similar event.
Kessling said he is concerned about preliminary hearings at centralized court at the jail and the number of people unrelated to the jail population or employees, such as attorneys, moving about the jail. He asked if it would be possible for centralized court to be moved to another location.
Vice chairman John Sobel, who conducted the meeting in the absence of Chairman President Judge Frederic Ammerman, said that the question of moving centralized court has been discussed in the past.
District Attorney Ryan Sayers added that the process for the court appearances has been slowed down by the virus and while some action has been taken to streamline things, it is still a slow process and perhaps a different location would help.
Recently, because of the lock down, centralized court has been held at the courthouse, but that has created additional scheduling conflicts.
Sobel said that the county has organized a Redevelopment Authority and purchasing property for this purpose could be something the county could look into, but they will need to get the county judges as well as the district judges in on the discussion.
Another item Kessling talked about was cameras for the processing center and even in parts of the jail and whether or not they should be recording audio.
He said he believes it is a good thing because it gives an extra layer of information during an incident and if the corrections officers are doing their jobs right, they shouldn’t be worried about audio being recorded.
Sobel said that the county solicitor looked into the matter and sent an email to the board members indicating that having audio included would be possible as long as certain requirements are met, including consideration for conferences between inmates and their attorneys.
The board members will review her email and revisit the matter later.