Inside Out facilitator Ryan Taylor (above) addresses the Wyoming County Commissioners and members of the prison board in Tunkhannock on Tuesday.
Story and Photos by Rick Hiduk
(As published in the Dec. 14 edition of the Rocket-Courier)
Population at the Wyoming County Prison continues to fall slowly, with 56 men and 12 women currently incarcerated at the jail in Tunkhannock. For the first time in nearly two years, the cost for boarding prisoners outside the county fell below $10,000, down more than 50 percent from $17,120 in January 2017 to $8,085 in October.
Only four inmates are currently boarded out to Lackawanna County, and one has been furloughed to a rehabilitation center.
Deputy Warden Gordon Traveny presented the new figures prior to the regular commissioners meeting. A meeting of the Wyoming County Prison Board had been scheduled, but a quorum was not reached due to several members being otherwise occupied. There was no need, however, for action on any items discussed.
Three representatives of the Inside Out inmate counseling program were on hand to share the progress they have made this year. Facilitators Ryan Taylor and Jennifer Jones are working with eight males and five females currently eligible for the program and looking to bring several others into the current course cycle.
“Miracles don’t happen overnight,” Jones said of the program. She related that she is able to see positive changes even among those who are brought back to prison on new charges. “I try to get them to see, if they act out, where their actions are leading. I hope to inspire them, and they inspire me.”
Taylor agreed that the men that he is working with continually show improvement. “They’ve been able to work through things a little better, rather than resorting to (undesirable actions) like violence.”
They introduced Jennifer Hollister, who has been through two cycles of the program as a participant in Drug Treatment Court. “It has helped my behavior so much,” she remarked. “I’m now hosting meetings and hoping to help others.” Taylor related that, in addition to Hollister, he is hoping to enlist some other counselors to assist with the program.
Henry and commissioner Judy Mead commended the trio for their commitment as volunteers to the program, noting that they routinely give up portions of their weekends while also attending school and holding jobs. “The input from people who have been through the program and left the prison has been very positive,” Henry stated.
In reference to a recent Luzerne Wyoming Counties Mental Health & Disabilities board meeting, Henry reported that Luzerne County members are looking at Wyoming County as a model for several successful initiatives. One of these is a program with PrimeCare that increases the period of professional attention for people with mental illnesses released from prison from three to 30 days.
The extension allows for a much more efficient and compassionate transition for such people in terms of connecting them with proper therapy resources, medication and medical assistance, food stamps, and housing if needed, said Lori Bennett, business office manager at Wyoming County Special Needs Association. Previously, Mead added, “It was like letting them loose into outer space.”
On a final note, Henry announced that he has ordered a new control panel for the prison, which will arrive within 30 to 90 days. The old panel is still functioning, Henry related, but nobody knows for how much longer.
“A lot of the replacement parts are obsolete,” Traveny explained. “it would have cost more to continue making repairs than to buy a new one.” Too much rides on the panel, prison board members have agreed, to let the old one further deteriorate.
Commissioner Tom Henry announced that there are still openings for part time corrections officers at the prison and that interested readers may download an application from www.wycopa.org or contact the prison or the commissioners office.