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Prison Board Meeting: Jail Population Drops, Staff Levels May Stay

Monday, January 13, 2020 @ 12:01 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

clarion-county-jailCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – While the number of inmates at the Clarion County Jail continues to drop, that doesn’t necessarily mean a reduction in staff.

“Our average daily population throughout the last several years in 2019 was 87, in 2018, it was 101, 2017 it was 108,” Warden Jeff Hornberger reported to the Clarion County Board of inspections at its January meeting.

“2016 seems to be our highest or peak year,” continued Hornberger. ”There were days when we had 129 or 130 inmates back then. We were even facing looking at possibly building on to the jail, but a lot of innovative programs help keep our daily population down. I think Judge Sara Seidle already discussed it when she was sworn in, and I agree  we need to continue to build on some more programs.”

Commissioner and Prison Board Member Ted Tharan questioned: “At what point do you see a reduction in staff?”

Hornberger wasn’t sure if it would be possible to decrease staff.

“It’s hard to say because there are so many variables. Number one, transportation would happen throughout the day and the week. Somebody calls off sick or takes vacation day, seeing how it’s a union shop, I’ve got a call the next part-timer in line or the next most senior person.”

Tharan asked “If you’re at 75 if you could go down to 60 or 50 and you have the same size of staff that watched 125?”

Hornberger said, “A good rule of thumb across the state is you have one officer for every 15 inmates in jail, and that’s what the state uses. I know we just dealt with some union grievances that have been going on for the last two months; when somebody calls off certain shifts, I don’t replace them. Being a union shop you know, there have been some issues arise on that, but we have handled them, and I think we’re going to continue to operate that way as it is right now.

“That’s one of the reasons you’re seeing some cost savings. When people call off on certain shifts we don’t replace certain shifts, and we are working on that right now.”

Cost, Quality of Jail Food Discussed

The average cost of meals per prisoner is $1.43, according to Hornberger.

“For the portion servings and the quality of food that they serve over there, that’s pretty good. The cost per meal is only food costs. We do have two full-time cooks and one part-time cook, so you could take their salary and their benefits and put them on top of that which would bring it up a little bit.”

On a typical day for lunch, they might have a cheeseburger, French fries, fruit cocktail, and a drink, Hornberger explained.

“We do have a reputation for having good food. My staff eats there each day, and if it wasn’t that great, I wouldn’t eat there.”

Employees are not charged as per the union contract.

Tharan asked if we (prison board) could eat there, and Hornberger said “yes.”

“Anybody from the Prison Board can come over and sample the meal as long as they don’t make a habit of it,” Hornberger said.

Commissioner Wayne Brosius was re-elected chairman of the board, and Clarion County Treasurer Tom McConnel was named vice-chair.  Other board members include Commissioner Ed Heasley, District Attorney Drew Welsh, and Sheriff Rex Munsey.

The next board meeting is Thursday, February 13, at 9:00 a.m. in the Main Street Administrative Building Conference Room.


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