By Rick Hiduk
(exclusive to EndlessMtnLifestyles.com readers)
During a meeting of the Wyoming County Prison Board that preceded the regular meeting of the Wyoming County Commissioners on Tuesday, Warden Ken Repsher reported that female inmates will be returning to the facility in Tunkhannock now that he has enough female corrections officers back on the staff.
Thirteen woman have been housed at the Wayne County Correctional Facility for a little more than a month. There are now four female guards at the prison in Wyoming County, in addition to training lieutenant Heather Schmidt, which will allow for the return of female inmates.
“We’re in pretty good shape as far as that goes,” Repsher said of ongoing staffing issues, adding that two of the new hires came in with abundant experience.
For security reasons, president Judge Russell Shurtleff explained, the date that the female prisoners will be transported back to Tunkhannock will not be disclosed.
There are currently 58 inmates in the county system, including four men who are boarded out at treatment centers. The cost for the recent outsourcing is $8,905, bringing the 2021 total to $13,325. Repsher indicated that the final cost will be higher.
Visitation to the jail has resumed after being discontinued for more than a year during the height of the COVID pandemic. Rules for visitation can be accessed on the county’s website – https://wycopa.org/correctional-facility/.
Nonetheless, commissioner Tom Henry reported, programming such as drug and alcohol meetings are still not being offered.
“It’s a different jail with a different population,” Repsher remarked, adding that altercations between prisoners at group meetings such as ABT (A Better Today) were on the increase even before COVID, and he still does not feel comfortable with group settings. “They were becoming ‘fight nights,’” he related. “I don’t want civilians involved in that kind of situation. Nor do I want prison employees or other prisoners hurt.”
In the meantime, Repsher noted, he is OK with agencies, some of which have complained to the commissioners about the current policy, being upset with him rather than risk an incident. According to his monthly report, only mental health-related visits have been provided to prisoners. Repsher and Henry expressed hope that ABT counselors would be willing to work with as few as three inmates at a time.
Others in attendance at the Prison Board meeting were Schmidt, sheriff Bob Roberts, commissioners Ernie King and Rick Wilbur, and chief clerk Bill Gaylord.