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Prison opens doors to Web surfers

September 09, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Family and friends curious about the conditions under which an inmate lives in Franklin County Prison can take a tour of the jail without leaving their homes.

At, people can find out who is in jail, what cell block or unit they are in and get a look at the accommodations, Warden John Wetzel said. Since the site debuted on Aug. 31, it has received more than 6,000 hits.

The average daily prison population is about 350 inmates, Wetzel said.

"When you hear their questions, so many of them could be answered by a system like this," Wetzel said of the telephone and in-person inquiries by people asking about loved ones in jail.


"We get calls like, 'Is my husband there? He didn't come home last night,'" Wetzel said. If an inmate tells someone they are in the restricted housing unit, the person can now go to the Web site and get a look at the unit.

That includes the A, B and C blocks, the women's block, the work release annex and the mess hall, Wetzel said.

"The focus of it and the impetus behind it is to guide people through our system," said Wetzel.

"You could find out pretty much everything you need to know," said Wetzel, the exception being the charges on which a person is being held. That would take up too much space on the site, he said.

Information on the site includes directions to the prison from various cities, how to contact prison officials, the inmate handbook, property and visitation policies and education and treatment programs. There also are articles about prison overcrowding and the jail industries program, in which inmates are put to productive work, such as landscaping and cleaning at the Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

The site includes links to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and JPay Inc., an Internet service that allows people to send money to an inmate's account.

"The easy way to send money to an inmate," according to JPay's Web site.

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