Mirabito: County should ‘think about’ creating a new prison

Lycoming County commissioners had prison populations and crime statistics on their brains Tuesday.

Mya Toon, chief procurement officer, pointed out the county has spent about $169,000 on housing female inmates out of county so far this year. In 2010, the county spent about $150 on out-of-county housing, but the cost shot up to $511,531 in 2014 and rose to $644,288 the next year.

Since the county’s reentry program hit its stride in 2015, the prison population has steadily decreased and the cost of out-of-county housing dropped to $354,691 in 2016. No males have had to be housed out of county in over a year, though the female population has remained steady.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito said it’s important to consider whether the county is getting “the best bang for the buck in the total picture” when looking at the reentry program costs combined with prison population costs. The year-to-date cost for sending inmates elsewhere doesn’t include the cost of transportation, pay for the staff involved in transport, and so on, he said.

Further, Mirabito said the county prison is “antiquated,” in that there aren’t enough beds for females, and is not set up for the inmates’ mental health and addiction recovery needs. With the aforementioned information in mind, he said, the commissioners should “think about” a new prison facility.

“I think we have to think about these (details) and not be frightened off by the prospect of a new building. That’s not to be saying that I want to go out and build a prison tomorrow,” Mirabito said. “But I think we need to look at the big picture of what’s happening and try to plan.”

The commissioners will consider the following items and others at their next meeting:

• Approval of the 2017 Community Development Block Grant finalized awards. Kristin McLaughlin, project coordinator for the SEDA-Council of Governments, will review the projects submitted and present the council’s recommendations.

• Approval of the 2017 Emergency Management Performance Grant from the state Emergency Management Agency in the amount of $134,406. The annual grant accounts for 50 percent of the four agency staff members’ salaries and benefits.

• Rejection of the sole bid for a remodeling project at the James V. Brown Library, which came in at $115,740, or about $36,000 over the $80,000 budget. The commissioners will vote to re-bid the project.

Commissioners Mirabito, Jack McKernan and Tony Mussare were present. The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday.