County prison ledger sheet: Programming key to stabilization

The volatility of Lycoming County prison operations and necessity to prevent overcrowding was underlined in the system’s recent report for June.

After nearly two years of keeping the male inmate population low enough to avoid expensive transfers, the Lycoming County Prison had about four days in mid-June when 12 inmates were housed out-of-county.

And it was expensive.

Fortunately, the prison collected $15,290 in April for housing federal inmates. And those revenues more than made up for the cost of transferring inmates to facilities outside Lycoming County.

So two things are important to the future ledger sheet of the Lycoming County prison system.

The county needs to keep its inmate population under control. The key to that is the success of its other programs that act as alternatives to incarceration.

And it needs to continue to find space to take in federal inmates. It’s a viable source of revenue that is a major factor to balancing its prison operations budget.

In the grand scheme of things, the courts need to be able to assess strong incarceration penalties where they are necessary. Otherwise, the legs would be cut out from the law enforcement community.

But the county also needs to maintain its strong battery of incarceration alternatives that provide those running afoul of the law the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and reduce the chances of returning to the courts exponentially.

It’s a tricky formula.

But it’s important that it work, given the fiscal volatility of Lycoming County prison operations.