The Lycoming County commissioners are eyeing a portion of the county's Pine Street Executive Plaza as a primary location for a day-reporting center, according to county Commissioner Jeff Wheeland.
On Friday, commissioners told the prison board that the center could be up and running by May.
If chosen, it would be in a section of the first floor facing the county courthouse, Wheeland said.
However, a decision on the location may depend on a recommendation of the primary service provider the county ultimately chooses.
The commissioners are leaning in favor of GEO Group Inc., which runs similar facilities in Luzerne and Franklin counties.
Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., GEO Group specializes in correctional, detention and community reentry services.
GEO Group will meet with the commissioners and examine the space next Friday.
"If (GEO) comes in and says this location won't work, we'll have to look elsewhere," Wheeland said.
If that location is chosen, costs to facilitate the change in the building would be "minimal," said Commissioner Tony Mussare, possibly about $10,000.
The benefits of that location would be proximity: to the courthouse, to adult probation offices and to public transportation, Wheeland said. The premises also are supported by the sheriff's department, he added.
Nonviolent offenders the court orders to participate would have to report daily to the center, he said.
The decision on which firm to hire rests more with the courts than the commissioners, Wheeland said.
A day-reporting center would reduce prison overcrowding, help rehabilitate nonviolent offenders and save taxpayer money, Mussare said.
A cost study analysis showed if there are 125 participants for the center, the cost per person that GEO would charge would be about $31 or $32 a day, Mussare said. Without the center, and if they stayed in prison, it would cost $65 to $70 a day to house them out of county, he said, plus transportation costs.
"(The center) would save us half our money," Mussare said, speaking from a taxpayer's perspective.
Further, prisoners' medical expenses get pricey. For those who are HIV positive, the prison can spend $6,000 a month on medication, Mussare gave as an example.
"When you assume that person in prison as a prisoner, you're taking over everything, whether they have health insurance or not," Mussare said. "It's a substantial savings by keeping them out of prison."
Mussare said offenders need guidance, and the center would "offer a structure to become productive members of society.".
The GEO overall average rate of reducing recidivism is 67 percent, Mussare said.
"We truly believe this will work, but if the data does not show (success) in a year or two, we have the option to terminate," Mussare said.
Prison overcrowding at the county prison remains an issue. On Friday, 23 inmates were sent out of county due to overcrowding. Last month's overcrowding average was five.
"The population continues to be high," Warden Kevin DeParlos said.
Wheeland said alternatives to incarceration are important, as many offenders would be housed out of county if it weren't for the bail-release program.
The average of those in the bail-release program last month was 94, which would otherwise be squeezing out beds in the prison, DeParlos said.