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Franklin Co. prison faces challenges

May 07, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Still well above its rated capacity, the inmate population of Franklin County Prison dropped in April, but mentally ill prisoners pose a challenge to staff, according to Warden John Wetzel's monthly report to the prison board.

The daily average population was 332, compared to the year-to-date daily average of 354. While 166 male and female inmates were admitted in April, Wetzel said 190 men and women were discharged.

Wetzel said one reason for the drop was a decrease in the number of days that probation and parole violators spent behind bars. The length of stay has fallen in recent months from 90 to about 78 days.

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Despite the drop, the report stated that the main prison, with 168 inmates as of Tuesday, was at 171 percent of capacity. There were, however, 27 male and nine female beds open at the prison annex, were 157 inmates were being housed Tuesday.

The prison did have three inmates at a state mental hospital for mentally ill criminals and two more the county hopes will soon be taken, Wetzel said. Some of the mentally ill inmates are suicidal and require single cells and around-the-clock observation, Wetzel said.

One of those still at the prison attempted suicide two days earlier by tying a cloth around his neck. Wetzel said that man nearly succeeded in an earlier attempt, drinking out of a toilet until his electrolyte level dropped so low that he went into seizures and had to be placed on a ventilator for two days.

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