Shroud lifted from county prison study

Lycoming County Commissioner Jeff Wheeland, board chairman, on Thursday released a copy of a taxpayer-funded prison needs assessment to the Sun-Gazette in response to the newspaper’s repeated requests to view the document.

The Sun-Gazette had been denied access to the report because, according to county officials, the information was “predecisional” and intended only for internal discussion among county officials.

A formal Right to Know request was submitted to the county on Jan. 31. Then on Friday, the consultants who prepared the study took to the Lycoming County Prison Board a recommendation for a new combined county prison and pre-release center that would add 138 beds between the two facilities.

Again the entire report was requested and withheld by the county.

The study, which cost $84,000, was completed by Carter Goble Lee correctional planners, of Columbia, South Carolina, and consulting and engineering firm L.R. Kimball, of Ebensburg.

No action on the prison’s future has been taken.

The Sun-Gazette is reviewing details of the report and has agreed to meet with county officials to gain a better understanding of its contents before publishing a report.

Wheeland said he decided to release the study because he felt confident that future news stories will include accompanying analysis from county court and justice officials.