Cambria to house more inmates

Keeping out-of-county prisoners providing millions in revenue

For the third time in as many months, Cambria County commissioners cast votes pertaining to the housing of out-of-county inmates in the local prison.

It’s a practice that has given the county millions of dollars in revenue.

On Thursday, commissioners voted unanimously to approve a three-year agreement with the Oneida Nation to continue to house Native American prisoners at the local jail.

“We’re negotiating an increase this year,” county solicitor Bill Barbin said.

To house a prisoner in Cambria County, Oneida officials will have to a pay a per-day, per inmate fee of $85 — up from $65 in a previous agreement.

That vote came after another vote in June to house Cayuga Nation prisoners, also at a $85 per-day, per-inmate rate. And in July, the commissioners voted to charge the state Department of Corrections to house parole violators at $72 per inmate, per day.

“We make money every time,” Barbin said in July.

Similar agreements exist between the county and other agencies, as well, but the names of each of those agencies and the rates they pay could not immediately be made available by Cambria County officials, though they agreed to make them available at a later date.

After the Thursday meeting, Cambria County Chief Clerk Michael Gelles shared revenue data, showing how much money was made by housing out-of-county inmates in 2017 and so far this year.

In 2017, the local prison system generated $2,605,102 by housing inmates originally detained by out-of-county agencies.

That revenue was down slightly from $2,686,396 in 2016.

Prisoners from Elk, Indiana, Northumberland and Union counties, as well as the state Department of Corrections and U.S. Marshal Service, were housed in the local jail in 2017.

So were prisoners detained by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

In July alone, the county made $93,384 by housing Department of Homeland Security/ICE inmates — that’s about 34 percent of the total revenue from housing out-of-county prisoners for the month at $228,974.

The rest of that out-of-town revenue came from housing inmates from Northumberland County, the state Department of Corrections and the U.S. Marshal Service, as well as short-time stays for prisoners being transported from one area to another.

So far this year, the Cambria County Prison has generated $1,423,889 through housing inmates from outside the county.

All of that money, Gelles said, is placed in the county’s general fund and can be used to offset prison costs.

Of the 555 prisoners housed in Cambria County in July, 109 were from outside of the county system.

In Centre County, the local jail houses between 90 to 110 out-of-county prisoners, with a total inmate population of about 397, Warden Christopher Schell said.

They are housed at a rate of $65 per day, Schell said.

“To me it’s a benefit to the county,” Schell said, explaining revenue made by housing those prisoners is placed in the county’s general fund to help offset costs and thwart tax increases.

As of Friday, Schell said the only out-of-town inmates housed in Centre County come from other county systems. For example, Hunting­don County’s female prisoners are housed in the Centre County Correctional Facility.

The facility has not yet been opened to state prisoners or those incarcerated by federal agencies, Schell said.

“We are looking into it,” he said, explaining some loss of revenue is expected as Northumberland County — which houses inmates in Centre — is working to open a new prison.

Bedford County officials, through a similar contract, have agreed to house Fulton County’s inmate population at a rate of $63 per inmate, per day, Commissioners Chairman Josh Lang said.

On average, the Bedford County Correctional Facility houses about 155 inmates. Fulton inmates make up about 17 to 18 percent of that population, Lang said.

In the past, the Bedford system has housed inmates from Huntingdon and Fayette counties.

“It’s been few and far between,” Lang said.

And a reciprocity agreement exists in Bedford County for free housing of Blair and Somerset county prisoners.

Blair County officials could not immediately be reached for comment about their inmate population Friday, but they do not house federal prisoners.

Huntingdon County officials also could not be reached.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.