Electronic monitoring program shows positive signs

Five years ago, facing a major, costly prison overcrowding problem, Lycoming County instituted a reentry program that essentially trimmed the prison population by using alternative means for those facing court penalties.

The program has not been an unqualified success. It has its critics. It has its shortcomings.

And it has cost the county $3,382,172.

But, on balance, it is working.

The prison overcrowding and related costs have largely disappeared.

And refinements that augment the reentry program, such as electronic monitoring, are paying dividends.

The electronic monitoring savings have surpassed program costs by $23,048, Lycoming County Prison Board officials were told recently.

Prison officials also enlightened the board on the testimonials their prison alternative programs received at a recent national conference attended by about 1,000 of their peers.

They found that their peers were “jealous” of their reentry and electronic monitoring programs and some did not even have programs such as Lycoming County’s treatment court.

Prison time is the correct punishment for many lawbreakers. But when it is not, the more alternatives the county has that will keep people out of a prison cell and enhance their chances of reforming into productive community citizens, the better, so long as the programs are grounded in fiscal sense and practicality.

Evidence suggests that blueprint is alive and well in Lycoming County.

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