CLEARFIELD – The status of the work release program was discussed during Thursday’s Clearfield County Prison Board meeting.
At a previous meeting, Controller Tom Adamson questioned why so few prisoners qualified for the work release program and asked if the rules regarding drug testing were a hindrance.
Warden Gregory Collins had replied that there were multiple reasons why inmates didn’t qualify, including not having jobs to begin with, as well as testing “hot” for drugs.
The personnel committee then agreed to review the matter and see if some of the guidelines could be relaxed.
At Thursday’s meeting, the warden presented a report on the work release program from 2015 through 2018, noting the number of those approved for the program each year and also the number denied and the reasons.
In 2015, 22 were approved and 20 denied. In 2016, 35 were approved and 20 denied. In 2017, 22 were approved and 24 denied. And in 2018, 17 were approved and 20 denied.
When an inmate qualifies for work release, a portion of their pay goes toward their incarceration costs.
President Judge Fredric Ammerman has said he remembers times when there were more than 10 inmates on the program any given month, but now the program rarely has more than three or four participants per month and most recently only one or two.
Only a small number of those denied in the past four years were denied due to testing positive for drugs—12 total. The other reasons included: early release, lack of employment, misconduct or at the warden’s discretion.
Only those who have been sentenced are eligible for work release. When asked, Collins couldn’t give an exact percentage of those currently in the jail who are pre-trial detainees, but it could be 50 percent or higher. He said it varies and he could have that information at the next meeting.
When asked how many he could send to work immediately if there was an employer asking for workers, he said only about five would qualify.
The warden and assistant warden also reported that other county jails are facing similar problems. Jefferson County, however, regularly has 16-18.
When asked why Jefferson is able to have more, the response was that while they have the same guidelines as Clearfield, they also have several employers willing to take inmates and the workplaces are close to the jail.
Collins added that some local companies have stopped accepting inmates for various reasons, including the employees not coming to work once they’re released from jail. One began hiring Amish due to their high work ethic, which Ammerman agreed is a quality lacking in many inmates.
Ultimately, it is something the board will continue to look at.
Under the warden’s report, December began with 158 inmates with 135 committed and 135 released. The month ended with 162 and currently there are 175 inmates.
The board also reorganized and retained the same slate of officers: Ammerman remains as chairman, John Sobel as vice chairman and Adamson as secretary.
Meeting times were changed to the third Tuesday of each month at 12 p.m.