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Overall county inmate population down in 2020

COVID-19 played a big part in decreasing the Lycoming County inmate population by an average of more than 100 prisoners during the past year.

County Prison Warden Brad Shoemaker said the coronavirus prompted county officials, including those in the court system to find ways to cut prisoner numbers beginning in March 2020.

It involved taking an extensive look at the population and determining what inmates were eligible for early release or house arrest.

Decreasing the population, he noted, allowed for officials to better implement quarantine measures which continue.

“We anticipate that numbers will increase in 2021,” he said.

County Sheriff Mark Lusk noted that caution must be taken in reducing prison population as the recidivism rate is high.

Overall, the average daily inmate population for the prison and Pre-Release Center was 240.05 in 2020 compared to 342.10 in 2019.

Between November and December of last year, the average daily population increased from 231.90 to 240.91.

The county’s reentry program, designed to help rehabilitate inmates to become productive members of the community, has helped reduce prisoner numbers as well over the past several years.

Lycoming County Commissioner and Prison Board Chairman Tony Mussare noted that while 2020 was a difficult year, county officials did a good job dealing with issues such as COVID-19.

Commissioner and board member Scott Metzger agreed.

“These were unchartered waters,” he said.

Commissioner and board member Rick Mirabito noted that the expectation is that the coronavirus situation will worsen before it gets better.

“Hopefully, we take the lessons we learned and move forward,” he said.

Shoemaker reported there were 24 disciplinary hearings for 18 different inmates during December. One hearing resulted in an inmate being found not guilty.

He also reported that 18.07 percent of inmates in the prison system are on psychotropic medications.

In a personal matter, the board approved the hiring of Joel Worthington to fill a Pre-Release counselor position.

The board elected board officers for 2021.

Mussare will serve another one-year term as chairman. Lusk was elected vice chairman and District Attorney Ryan Gardner as secretary.

The next prison board meeting will be 8:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 12 at Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St., Williamsport.

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