LAWRENCE COUNTY PRISON Board focuses on avoiding a deficit
The county is getting less revenue from other counties housing inmates.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County's prison board is looking for ways to reduce county jail costs and avoid a projected deficit.
Prison Board President Brian Burick said the jail faces a deficit of nearly several hundred thousand dollars if costs aren't contained.
The jail is over budget in wages and overtime for corrections officers, grocery costs and medical expenses for inmates.
It is also under budget in revenue from out-of-county inmates, he said. The county had expected to make $1 million from out-of-county inmates, but a higher than expected local jail population has cut back on the space available for out-of-county inmates.
Burick said he asked prison board members for cost-cutting ideas and plans to create a committee to work on the problem.
These concerns come on the heels of a dispute between Lawrence County Commissioner Ed Fosnaught and District Attorney Matthew Mangino.
Fosnaught, in a newsletter to his supporters, questioned why there has been an increase in in-county inmates and said it is not consistent with the county's overall population growth.
Finances and accountability
Fosnaught also stated that the county may have "allowed the deck to become stacked in favor of the prosecution" by allowing increases in the DA's staff and none in the public defender's office.
Mangino called a press conference Tuesday to rebut those statements and said his office prosecutes those who need to be in jail.
He reiterated that point at Wednesday's prison board meeting.
"I think it sends a poor message to the public that we consider finances over accountability. We have chronic offenders [who must go to jail]. We need to send a clear message that you can't thumb your nose at the court when you use drugs or alcohol illegally," he said.
Lawrence County President Judge Ralph Pratt agreed.
"We cannot avoid sentencing imprisonment merely because of cost. We have an obligation to sentence people who have been found guilty," he said.
Pratt suggested they could ask the adult probation office to be less aggressive when revoking bond, ask domestic relations to back off when sending deadbeat parents to jail and set lower bail amounts to decrease the jail population.
"These are three areas we could look at, but we have to be very cautious by not violating our oaths by letting people on the streets that should not be on the streets," he said.
Burick said they hope to have a cost-cutting plan in place when the prison board meets on Sept. 11.