The status of the inmate housing crunch, and proposed solutions to the problem, dominated discussion at the Lycoming County Prison Board meeting Friday.
The county has spent more than $300,000 this year housing inmates in other counties, said Prison Warden Kevin DeParlos.
The 2012 budget allocated $12,500 for inmate housing. This November alone, the county paid Centre and Clinton counties $46,718 to take on extra prisoners.
Between the prison and the Pre-Release Center, the inmate population total averaged 406 in November, DeParlos said. That number includes those transferred to other counties to alleviate overcrowding.
The county has a capacity for 392 inmates, with 255 beds at the prison and 137 beds at the Pre-Release Center.
"All through this week the sheriff's department has been able to return inmates," said Sheriff Mark Lusk. "We've only got three out of county right now we're really elated that almost everyone's back."
Relief to stresses on housing capacity is expected to be temporary. The 2013 budget includes $600,000 for inmate housing.
"There will be a deluge (of new prisoners) in the first part of January," Lusk said. "We're bracing for the spike."
Lycoming County's average inmate population in 2012 will surpass all previous records.
"Our annual average for this year will be somewhere around 370," DeParlos said. "Our highest annual average before was 342 - that's a number we've reached twice We've had over 400 (inmates on average) for the last three months."
The board discussed options that do not involve incarceration, including hiring two more bail officers, for a total of four, to expand the prison's supervised release program.
"Supervised bail includes all pretrial cases," DeParlos said. "Then there's intensive supervised bail and release - people in that are tracked by a global positioning system as part of supervision that includes a population of sentenced inmates."
President Judge Nancy Butts spoke about efforts within the Court of Common Pleas to incarcerate less offenders for parole violations.
"We want to get these people who need other services out in the community," Butts said. "We're working with (magisterial district judges) to not have people committed in the first place."
According to Butts, offenders with drug, alcohol and mental health issues make up a large majority of the Court's cases. DUIs alone are 60 percent of the Court's caseload, and an increasing number of veterans are entering the system.
In other matters, Butts announced that Lycoming County will join with Clinton County in a county prison pilot program that will approve prisoners for medical assistance before their release.
According to the District Attorney's office, work on the central processing office in Old Lycoming Township is proceeding as scheduled.