Prison housing options will be revealed Friday

A consultant’s recommendations to alleviate Lycoming County’s increasing prison population will be unveiled at the next county Prison Board meeting scheduled at 8 a.m. Friday at the Pre-Release Center, 546 County Farm Road in Loyalsock Township.

The proposals, which include an option for a new prison, according to commissioners, could cost tens of millions of dollars in response to a climbing average number of people being sent to county prison.

Lycoming County commissioners have increased their budget by 4,700 percent from just two years ago for housing overflow inmates in other counties.

About 15 to 20 county inmates have been housed in other nearby institutions, causing commissioners to increase a line item for that expense to $600,000 for this year.

“I don’t want it to happen, but what if we don’t have a choice?” Commissioner Jeff Wheeland said about the possibility of building a new prison.

He said nearly 1 percent of the county’s population – more than 1,160 people – are incarcerated in either in the county prison or state prisons.

L.R. Kimball, an Ebensburg-based engineering and consulting firm, began a prison study about a year ago, Wheeland said. The company was hired to “totally analyze Lycoming County’s courts and corrections to help us understand current needs as best they could and project future needs.”

Commissioners may review several options to help reduce the county prison crowding issue, including the use of more supervised bail, intensive supervised bail and a possible day reporting center, which would serve nonviolent offenders and those out on parole or probation.

The technology that allows for GPS tracking of offenders also is improving, which can keep some people out of prison, Commissioner Tony Mussare said.

Commissioners and Prison Board members won’t take any action after hearing the consultant’s plans. Wheeland said more analysis will have to be done

“This is preliminary. No formal decisions have to happen right now,” Mussare said. “Maybe another board of commissioners will have to deal with it.”