Pact helps county prison overcrowding, but doesn’t solve it

The Lycoming County commissioners approved an agreement last week with Columbia County Prison for housing female inmates to alleviate prison overcrowding.

The problem of prison over-crowding has been exacerbated by an increase in the number of female inmates and the lack of another facility that will accept female inmates. Just prior to the agreement, the county had to send five female inmates to the Bloomsburg facility.

The deal is meant to save some money on the constant transferring of inmates and keep Lycoming County within its prison housing budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

The cost to the county is $65 per day for the housing of a minimum of five inmates at the Columbia County facility. If less than five inmates need to be housed, the rate increases to $75 per day.

Lycoming County had the agreement when it saw costs were rising from the 2012-13 prison housing expenditures.

It’s hard to fault the county’s decision making here.

But it does change the long-term reality. Lycoming County has a chronic prison overcrowding problem that is creating the need for such working agreements to transport inmates. We certainly don’t want to see any change in philosophies on sentencing criminal offenders to alleviate the situation.

And the problem needs more than day-to-day solutions.

The best plan we’ve heard to date is a day reporting center that would take the housing pressure off regular county facilities. The county needs to continue pursuing that alternative.