By Rick Hiduk
(Exclusive to EndlessMtnLifestyles.com readers)
The Wyoming County Commissioners approved the purchase this morning of a computer monitor and annually-updated software for video conferencing equipment to be used for arraignments at the Wyoming County Correctional Facility.
According to the commissioners, the one time cost of $882 for a computer and monitor and $648 for the software will save the county money in the long run. It will also reduce the need to transport inmates to one of the two district courts for arraignments, saving time and increasing safety. The system cannot be used for actual hearings, which require a judge and defendant to be face-to-face.
According to commissioner Rick Wilbur, there is already a room at the prison in Tunkhannock set up for arraignments. “But the equipment is old, and they didn’t feel comfortable using it,” he explained, adding that both district judges, Carl Smith and David Plummer, are on board and ready to start using the new system.
Sheriff Bob Roberts suggested that the savings will also include a reduced liability of transporting prisoners that has sometimes resulted in unpleasant incidents in the past, such as assaults or escapes. The new equipment will also allow for arraignments during off-hours as needed.
“It’s not just our jail either,” commissioner Tom Henry remarked. “We can do it with other jails too,” citing the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility as an example.
The monthly meeting of the Wyoming County Prison Board was held just prior to the regular public meeting of the commissioners with Judge Russell Shurtleff participating via speaker phone from Sullivan County, where he was holding court.
Warden Ken Repsher reported that population at the prison remains stable with releases outnumbering new commitments by 13 last month. With 47 men and 11 women currently in the system, only one male is currently housed in another facility, and that is for security purposes. The final tally for inmate outsourcing in 2019 was recorded at $84,595, which does not include medical costs.
On the topic of maintenance, Repsher noted that an exterior door as old as the building itself needs to be replaced. The commissioners later mentioned that the facility needs a new fire alarm, which will cost about $1,500.
Henry complimented prison staff for dealing with some extraordinary issues last week that included two prisoners with separate medical issues on the same day requiring emergency care. Repsher credited deputy warden Gordon Traveny, who was in charge of the facility while Repsher was on vacation, for maintaining calm during the events.
“They were not security issues, and the staff did an exceptional job of responding to both incidents,” Repsher remarked.
The Prison Board meeting was suspended for an executive session, after which the employment of a female corrections officer was terminated as per Repsher’s recommendation. County solicitor Paul Litwin III requested that the board not publicly discuss the reason for the dismissal. No action was taken on another personnel issue brought up during the executive session.
The next meeting of the Wyoming County Prison Board will be held on Wednesday, March 25, as the commissioners will be participating in a meeting of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) from March 22 to 24.