More female inmates stretch prison resources

Board agrees to buy new beds to accommodate influx

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The number of female inmates at the Blair County Prison has increased.

As of Thursday, the county facility was housing 346 inmates including 84 women, 18 more than the facility’s 66-bed capacity for females.

To accommodate the increase, the prison has been assigning six women to a cell where there would normally be four, Warden Michael Johnston said Thursday.

And with no anticipated drop in the number of female inmates, the county prison board agreed that staff should move ahead with ordering as many as 25 replacement beds to accommodate the women.

New beds, at 12 inches off the floor, will comply with state’s Title 37 code regulating county prisons, Johnston said, and replace ones the prison resorted to using that are only 4 inches off the floor.

While the cost of a new bed is $275, the prison board acknowledged that it’s the more cost-effective option.

The county could direct some women inmates to other facilities, Deputy Warden Randy Pollock said, but that would cost the county about $60 per day per inmate.

“I think we should order the beds,” said Commissioner Ted Beam Jr., who chaired the prison meeting in the absence of Judge Daniel Milliron.

Deputy Warden Abbie Tate said she already checked with the adult parole office about the possibility of a forthcoming drop in female inmates in case some were jailed on parole violations and could soon be released. But Tate said she learned that only 10 of the women are in jail on parole violations. The others are facing charges and have been unable to post bail or they would be serving county sentences.

Tate linked the increase in female inmates to those arrested in the last two organized drug busts. Both had more women than men, Tate said.

District Attorney Richard Consiglio said his office has recognized the increase in women facing more serious drug-related charges because of their association with out-of-town dealers.

Acting Warden Robert Marsh, who is succeeding the retiring Johnston on a temporary basis, said the number of female inmates is something that needs to be watched and if needed, addressed on a long-term basis.

As for a total population of 346, it’s a high for 2017 and falls close to the prison’s listed capacity of 350. The lowest average monthly inmate population reported this year was 296 in January.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.