Prison Outsourcing Increases as Precautionary Measure

Participants in the Oct. 27 meeting of the Wyoming County Prison Board included (clockwise, from left) solicitor Paul Litwin III, commissioners Tom henry, Rick Wilbur, and Ernie King, chief clerk Bill Gaylord, district attorney Jeff Mitchell, warden Ken Repsher, sheriff Bob Roberts and (not pictured) deputy warden Gordon Traveny.

Story and Photo by Rick Hiduk

(Exclusive to EndlessMtnLifestyles,com readers)

With prisons across Pennsylvania and the nation reporting spikes in COVID-19 cases and even deaths from the coronavirus, it’s understandable that Wyoming County officials and administrators at the jail in Tunkhannock feel fortunate that there have been no positive tests here.

Normally, there is room for 60 men and 14 women at the Wyoming County Correctional Facility. In previous years, the facility has often been maxed out and extra inmates had to be housed at jails in nearby counties.

Participants in the county’s judicial system worked together in the spring to empty the prison of non-violent offenders who could be safely monitored at home, thereby spreading out the remaining inmates and providing some space for quarantining new arrivals.

As the courts catch up with a backlog of continued cases, intakes outnumbered released prisoners by 11 last month, resulting in 14 inmates being sent to facilities in Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wayne counties.

Because of COVID, we need a block for quarantine,” warden Ken Repsher reported during the Oct. 27 meeting of the Wyoming County Prison Board. A new shower has been installed and other changes have been made to help keep prisoners separated until it can be assumed that they are COVID free.

As opposed to past instances of outsourcing, commissioner Rick Wilbur explained, the county will not be on the hook for the expenses, which totaled $2,730 in August. “Because it is COVID related,” he noted, “that cost will be covered (by government programs) and will not come out of the general fund.”

Commissioner Tom Henry took the opportunity to commend prison staff and others in the judicial system for their cooperation to maintain the safety and efficiency of those involved with the recent murder trial of Phillip Walters, who was found guilty of killing and dismembering Haley Lorenzen in December of 2018. “Everything ran very smoothly,” Henry remarked.

In related news, the hiring of Camacho Giovanni as a new part time corrections officer was approved by the commissioners in a subsequent meeting. Commissioner Wilbur noted that there are still several openings for corrections officers at the prison and applications can be found on the county website

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