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Warden gives update on Franklin County Jail

July 06, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - During its first month of operation, not everything went according to plan at the Franklin County Jail, with the work release block full and grievances and complaints by inmates up, although fighting was down, Warden John Wetzel told the county Prison Board Thursday.

Prisoners were moved from the prison complex on Franklin Farm Lane to the jail at the Cumberland Valley Business Park on May 30 and 31. For the first six months, Wetzel said he will issue monthly transition reports to track inmate misconducts, grievances and other statistics, comparing it to data from the former prison.

The average daily population of the prison was 335, up from the 2006 average daily population of about 328, according to the warden's regular monthly report. The inmate population included 21 inmates from Fulton County, which has no jail and pays the county to house them, he said.

The transition report showed that for Thursday, six of the seven housing units in the jail were below capacity, the exception being the work release unit, with a full house of 72 inmates.

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"It catches my attention that that you're at capacity in B Unit," Judge Douglas Herman, a member of the Prison Board, said of the men's work release unit. He asked Wetzel how the jail will handle a situation when the work release area is overcapacity.

That did happen during the first month, Wetzel said, and temporary bunks were used. Inmates on work release also could be housed in other higher security units, he said.

Overcrowding, the primary reason the $30 million jail was built, is less of a concern in work release because the inmates typically spend about half the day at work, Wetzel said.

"It's a real transient population," mostly of nonviolent offenders serving short sentences, he said.

The number of grievances and complaints filed by inmates increased from 55 in May to 85 in June, Wetzel said. In some cases, individual inmates filed more than one grievance, he said.

Timely prisoner transportation to court and keeping track of inmate property also have posed problems, Wetzel said. Inmates' belongings still were turning up in storage areas of the old prison complex, he said.

Wetzel said there were other problems, including no razors for inmates in the secured blocks for about three weeks. Razor caddies, used to hold and keep track of shaving gear handed out to inmates in those blocks, were on back order when the jail opened. Inmates making court appearances were allowed to shave, he said.

The transition report tracked the number of inmate fights to November, when there were 11. There were four fights in June, the report stated.

"It's just like when mom and dad are in the room," Wetzel said. "Kids are more likely to behave."

The jail has one corrections officer stationed in each housing unit. One officer sometimes was trying to keep an eye on three units at the former prison, he said.

The number of inmate misconduct citations was 46 in June, not much different from figures for the previous seven months, according to the report.

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