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Franklin prison may be expanded

June 01, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A committee formed by the Franklin County Prison Board will look in upcoming months at a number of ways to relieve crowding.

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The capacity of the main prison and work release annex is 324, but holding that many inmates requires having two or three prisoners in some cells, Warden Ray Rosenberry said in April. At the Prison Board's monthly meeting Thursday, Deputy Warden John Eyler said the daily average in May was 310 prisoners, with the population hitting 321 on May 25.

The average daily population in 1999 was about 280, Eyler said.

The all-time record of 334 was set in March, Rosenberry said at the April meeting. The population was 310 Thursday, including 39 women.

"The present population situation is not a temporary situation," said Court of Common Pleas Judge Douglas Herman, who chairs the committee. He said the criminal justice system in the county will continue to feed more inmates into the prison.

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The committee, which includes Rosenberry, Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson, Sheriff Robert Wollyung, Chief Probation Officer Richard Mertz and County Administrator John Hart, met recently to discuss available options.

Herman said the group discussed various measures, including expanding the prison and building a new facility, but recommendations are months away.

Expanding the prison would mean more than adding cells, according to Herman. It would have to be determined whether the existing heating and ventilation, electrical, food service and other systems could handle the additional load.

The committee discussed several ideas regarding the annex, which houses women inmates in addition to those eligible for work release, Herman said. "Could that facility be hardened to house pre-trial detainees?" he asked.

Most of those inmates are held in A-Block of the main prison, which used to be the minimum security wing, Herman said. More secure doors and windows could be installed in the block to house those charged with more serious offenses, he said.

Moving the women and work release inmates to a new facility was also discussed, the judge said. Expanding alternative sentencing programs for nonviolent offenders could also lessen the burden by requiring less jail time, he said.

"There's been a lot of federal money available to the states for state prisons," Nelson said. He suggested the county look for federal or state grants available for a feasibility study, planning or construction.

Adams County recently built a new prison and County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott suggested the committee meet with officials there to see what kind of assistance is available.

"If you get together with Adams County, you'll probably learn a lot in a short period of time," he said.

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