Prison plans to release nonviolent prisoners

Two new positions that were created to help ease a housing crunch at the Lycoming County Prison were authorized by commissioners Thursday.

A bail release program manager and officer will be added to the county’s employee roster. Prison Warden Kevin DeParlos said the positions would be advertised today.

The eventual addition of the employees would bring to four the number of supervised bail staff at the prison.

Bail officers would monitor about 50 to 60 nonviolent inmates that now are incarcerated but who will be released from behind bars and tracked by GPS, according to Commissioner Jeff Wheeland.

“The keyword is nonviolent,” he said.

Wheeland said the move is designed as a kind of stop-gap measure to “curb the rising tide, so to speak, of incarceration.”

It will be months before new employees are trained and equipment is available, Wheeland added.

Available space at the prison and the county’s Pre-Release Center has been tight for more than a year. A study completed by consultants hired by commissioners said a new, combined prison and PRC would be a long-term solution.

Commissioners also approved an agreement with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. that would give the company access to electrical power from a communications tower site in Waterville. Anadarko also would upgrade a transformer at the site and conduct a feasibility study to place a section of electrical lines underground, according to John Yingling, county department of public safety director.

He said placing utilities underground when possible is a huge advantage because of the frequent hazards of icing and high winds that can knock out lines.