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Prison to expand substance abuse counseling space

June 20, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - There will be an addition to the Franklin County Prison complex in the near future, but it will be for classroom space rather than bed space, according to the Board of County Commissioners.

The new modular building will allow the prison to expand its drug and alcohol counseling to include group sessions for inmates and classes on life skills and anger management, said Johnette Wolfe, deputy warden for treatment.

The prison now offers individual drug and alcohol counseling, Wolfe said. "Demand always exceeds our ability to provide in that area," she said Tuesday.

The county had received no bids on the 50-by-24-foot building by Tuesday's deadline, Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said. The county will advertise for new bids to be received early next month, he said.

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Many inmates are serving sentences for driving under the influence, drug possession and drug distribution and most inmates here and around the country have some sort of substance abuse problem, Wolfe said. "It runs about 80 percent nationally," she said.

The existing program uses two counselors from Manito Inc., an alternative education program that serves county schools as well.

Inspectors from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections informed the county about a year ago that "we needed to enhance our counseling," Commissioner Bob Thomas said.

Elliott said the county's Drug and Alcohol Working Group came up with the proposal to build a classroom on the prison complex. Wolfe said the group was formed more than two years ago and is made up of representatives from the prison, Probation Department, Drug and Alcohol and Mental Health agencies, the court system and other related offices.

The county applied for and received a three-year grant to help pay for the building, two counselors, office equipment, and supplies. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency is paying about $98,000 in the first year with the county paying the balance of the first year's budget of $132,000, Elliott said.

Elliott said the state's share for the program will decrease to 50 percent in the second year and 25 percent in the third, with the county then assuming all the costs of the program. The major cost, however, will be in the first year with the purchase of the building, he said.

Richard Ross, a consultant for the county on the project, said contractors have contacted him saying they will submit bids next month. If no bids are submitted then, the county can begin direct negotiations with companies, according to county attorney Welton Fischer.

Ross said the classrooms will be in a separate modular building on the south side of the main prison building. The security fence surrounding the building will be extended to include the classroom building, he said.

If a bid is accepted next month, the building could be in place later this summer, according to Ross.

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