New county prison: Facility needed, but so are more details

Lycoming County has received the cost estimate to handle its prison population for the next half century. It’s $40 million for a new prison.

That’s what it costs to separate the lawbreaking portion of the population from the regular residents of Lycoming County.

It would be nice if there was a trend toward a reduced lawbreaking population but all evidence points to just the opposite.

Based on the trend in this area, consultants hired by the county project in 2027 that the average daily inmate population between the prison and the Pre-Release Center will be 468.

The existing prison on West Third Street has 255 beds and no room for expansion it isn’t designed for vertical additions while the Pre-Release Center on county property in Montoursville has 137 beds.

So the math doesn’t work. And the costs of transporting prisoners to other places are exorbitant.

We would love to tell you more about the study details that went into the consultants’ recommendations, but a request by the Sun-Gazette for the $84,000, taxpayer-funded study was denied by the county commissioners. Given that we are talking about a $40 million cost commitment for a facility meant to serve the county for a half century, there definitely should have been more transparency regarding the study.

County residents deserve more information regarding the study and what is going into the county commissioners decision on a new prison.

Frankly, we’re disappointed and will continue pursuing details included in the study.

At this point, we wonder what details from the study the commissioners wouldn’t want the public to hear.

And until there is a more forthcoming spirit from the commissioners regarding the study, we will withhold support for the new facility.

Certainly all trends point to a need for expanded prison operations and locating such operations on land the county already owns is logistically ideal and saves significant property purchasing headaches and costs, keeping the tab at an estimated $40 million.

But taxpayers and residents deserve more details on the prison construction rationale.

Additionally, significant input from the county’s judges and incarceration professionals as well as the public is needed before the commissioners make a final decision on something that will have an impact for about a half century.