CLEARFIELD – Overcrowding was once again an issue discussed at Tuesday’s Clearfield County Prison Board meeting when a member of the public addressed the board about the number of inmates and resulting tensions and fights.
On Monday Court Administrator F. Cortez “Chip” Bell informed President Judge Fredric Ammerman that a man had come to see him to register a complaint about conditions at the Clearfield County Jail.
Bell instructed the person that the next prison board meeting would be at 12 p.m. the next day.
David Lombardo arrived late to the meeting, but Ammerman, who is chairman of the board, gave him time to speak.
Lombardo said he had been an inmate at the jail due to non-payment of a traffic fine levied by district magistrate Michael Morris and had been released Monday morning.
He said that the jail is extremely overpopulated, and in the block where he was, there were eight cots and 22 inmates.
Lombardo added that he was there for 13 days and saw at least eight fights break out after “lights out,” which is during the third shift, and “nothing was ever done.”
He also questioned why someone who owes a fine would be placed in jail and not given community service to work off the fine.
Ammerman first noted that the fines are mandatory and the county does not have the choice of giving community service over jail time, which has been a common complaint of counties to the state government.
He asked Lombardo if he had been involved in any of the fights, which Lombardo said he was not. Lombardo also replied that the jail employees didn’t respond to the fights, which usually involved fists, and the fights would only last a couple of minutes.
Warden Gregory Collins then responded and noted that the staff doesn’t always know when incidents occur, especially if they happen in areas where there are not cameras, such as cells, or if no one reports the incidents.
Sheriff Mike Churner added that if there is an investigation going on, the staff are not going to tell the inmates.
Ammerman agreed that overcrowding is an issue at the jail and has been a major topic of discussion for the board.
The board also looked at finances and it as noted by Controller Tom Adamson that $250,000 was budgeted for overtime this year and by the meeting in July, the jail will have exceeded that amount.
Also, when reading the expenditures and revenues for April and May, Adamson noted that the expenditures at the jail have topped over $1 million each month.
For April the pharmacy bill along was over $22,000 and over $19,000 in May. “These pharmacy bills are killing us,” Ammerman remarked.
There was also one extraordinary incident around Easter time where an inmate cut himself on the arms and neck and spent some time in intensive care at the hospital.
Furthermore, 55 inmates spent time in Jefferson County in April, the largest number they have ever had to send to Jefferson County.