News

Franklin County to send female inmates to Clinton County Jail

Written by Jim Hook/Chambersburg Public Opinion | Nov 30, 2016 7:54 AM
franklin_county_courthouse.jpg

FRANKLIN COUNTY COMMISSIONER'S OFFICE (Photo: public opinion)

(Chambersburg) -- Franklin County commissioners are contracting with a second county jail to take local inmates.

The Franklin County Jail is full.

For the second time in three months, the county is sending 10 female inmates to another county jail. Already 10 county women and 13 men are housed in the Indiana County Jail.

It's another sign of the national opioid crisis, according to county officials.

Franklin County has agreed to pay Clinton County $70 a day per inmate to house inmates at the Clinton County Correctional Facility in McElhatten.

Franklin County Warden William Bechtold said the 10 local women will be sent "soon" to Clinton County. Initially, sentenced female inmates will be sent to the Clinton County jail. If necessary, the county would then send unsentenced inmates whose court dates are far in the future.

"I'm not excited about this at all," Franklin County Commissioner Robert Thomas said. "We have too many people in the jail. We're seeing a spike. It's confounding."

The local jail, built in 2007 to last 20 years, has a capacity of 468 beds. The county on Tuesday had 494 inmates.

"The women's rate of opiate abuse has really skyrocketed," Bechtold said.

Deaths related to opioid use too have shot up. Franklin County has seen nearly 40 this year, up from the previous high of about a dozen each in 2014 and 2015 and way up from the historic level of two per year.

In September the county started sending inmates to Indiana County to reduce the population at the Franklin County Jail. Less than two weeks ago, the jail sent 10 men to Indiana, according to Bechtold.

"Indiana County can't take any more," he said.

The Indiana County jail is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Chambersburg. Clinton County jail is about three hours away.

Clinton County officials have not said how many inmates they can take, Bechtold said.

The Clinton County jail has room to house some Franklin County inmates, but the population "fluctuates a lot," according to Clinton County Deputy Warden Angela Hoover.

The Clinton County daily rate is comparable to the cost of jailing someone in Franklin County Jail ($69 a day) and Indiana County Jail ($60 a day).  Commissioners previously appropriated an additional $150,000 this year of local tax revenue to jail inmates out of county.

Franklin County Commissioners on Tuesday voted 3-0 in favor of the agreement with Clinton County. The county will pay for transporting the inmates and their medical costs.

"I think this is a good, temporary fix," Commissioner David Keller said.

The county is employing other initiatives in hopes of reducing the jail population. The aim is to curtail the number of repeat offenders and to prevent crime.

"We are doing so much already," Thomas said. "We have more continuity of care with someone leaving jail."

The county is implementing a program that could help 30 to 50 inmates a year, according to Keller. A qualifying inmate would start to receive counseling and naltrexone, a drug that blocks the craving for opioids and alcohol, about 45 days before the end of his or her sentence. When released, the person would be enrolled in a substance abuse program to continue treatment.

The county has also hired a recovery support specialist to make sure that inpatients recently released from rehab continue their treatment in intensive outpatient programs.

A case manager has been hired and assigned to the hospital emergency room to encourage overdose patients to seek treatment.

The district attorney's office also has a drug and alcohol specialist, who will assess whether a person should be prosecuted or treated for drug use. The district attorney can decide whether to pursue criminal charges or to defer charges and prosecution.

The county's Day Reporting Center, a model program for the region, however has fallen out of favor in recent months. The program, established 10 years ago, has been an alternative to jail time for people convicted of minor offenses. They report daily for therapy, job skills training and drug and alcohol treatment with the aim of changing criminal thinking.

"The Day Reporting Center is not being considered as a sentencing option," Keller said.

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and Public Opinion Online.

Published in News

Tagged under , , , ,

back to top

Give Now

Estate Planning

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Smart Talk

National Edward R. Murrow Awards

DuPont Columbia Awards

Support Local Journalism

Latest News from NPR

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »