Prison population decreasing

HOLLIDAYSBURG – The population of the Blair County Prison is down this summer because state-sentenced inmates are being moved to state correctional institutions at a much quicker rate, according to Warden Michael M. Johnston.

Blair County Deputy Warden Marc T. Masucci told the Blair County Prison Board on Thursday that the inmate population stood at 262, which is 61 fewer inmates than were housed there in January.

The prison population remained at more than 300 inmates for the first five months of the year but then fell to 296 in June and 262 in July.

Masucci tracks the statistics and said Thursday the inmate population in January was 323; February, 322; March, 300; April, 317; and May, 317.

The inmate population as of July 18 included 215 males and 47 females.

Johnston said that the lower numbers do not suggest a dramatic dip in crime but said the county is sending people to state institutions at a faster rate.

Despite the effort to move inmates through the system, 17 state-sentenced inmates still remained at the county prison on Thursday.

The chairman of the prison board, Commissioner Terry Tomassetti, said, “I take that as good” when told of the effort to move state-sentenced inmates to state correctional institutions.

Johnston explained after Thursday’s meeting that local prisons can’t just send an inmate to SCI Camp Hill, where male inmates are classified, at will.

He said the state must be informed about which inmates have been given a state sentence. It is up to the state to inform the county which inmates are to be transported and when.

Johnston said fewer inmates mean that things in the prison are a “little lighter.”

The staff he said is a little more at ease.

Abbie L. Tate, the prison’s treatment supervisor, said 136 inmates were committed from June 15 through July 15.

State figures show Blair has 504 inmates in the state system compared to: 296 for Cambria County, 204 for Centre County, 276 for Clearfield County, 163 for Bedford County and 138 for Huntingdon County.