Renovated cell block opened at prison

MCELHATTAN — “It’s really coming together.”

That’s what John Rowely, warden of the Clinton County Correctional Facility, told the prison board on Wednesday while giving an update on a multi-faceted upgrade at the facility that is scheduled to be completed in November.

All told, the county expects to spend about $2.2 million based on approved bids for general construction, plumbing, HVAC and electrical awarded earlier this year. General contractor is Kretina Construction Inc. of Duncansville.

“It’s gonna be one of the best county-run facilities,” Rowely said of the prison.

Rowley offered an extensive update to board members that include Commisioners Jeff Snyder and Paul Conklin, Judge Michael Salisbury, Deputy Warden of Support Services Angie Hoover, Deputy Ward of Custody Susan Watt, and Sheriff Kerry Stover.

One of the housing units under renovation has been opened. It houses 40 cells and was Unit A and B. It’s now just Unit A after being combined and is able to be watched by one officer, as compared to the two that were needed before the renovation. This was one of the ways the prison is able to cut costs.

The inmates that were moved into A came from Blocks J and K, where renovations are now underway.

Unit A wasn’t the only renovation finished.

The nursing staff that originally worked out of vacant cells at times have been moved into a new medical suite thanks to the help of the new medical treatment provider Correct Care Solutions.

The facilities that were used by nursing staff have now been turned into a special needs facility, according to Hoover.

With the moves, new training and services, Rowley said the prison, Correct Care and new mental health counseling provider, Crossroads Counseling Inc., intend to “take mental health and addiction programs here to a new level.” This includes bringing in a professional for psych evaluations.

As one of the busiest sections of the prison, the inmate intake area is also being improved exponentially.

The area is much more organized when police, U.S. Marshals and others enter the facility to bring in inmates.

“The intake area is very sensible,” the warden said.

A new fitness facility for inmates is being added in place of a gym.

The center has been painted and they are now just waiting for equipment to arrive in October. To be installed are treadmills, climbers and other equipment, Watt said.

Food service has improved, too, thanks to Aramark, the vendor, Hoover said, noting she has received fewer complaints about the food since Aramark took over.

Snyder agreed, saying his office has not received many complaints from family members of inmates.

The food service has also improved for the staff at the prison, along with a few other things.

A dining area for staff is planned so employees have a designated place to eat. They don’t now and some staff eat lunch in the hallways, Hoover said.

Aramark will provide staff with one meal per shift paid for by the county.

Staff will be surveyed as the prison and Aramark work to provide a “staff enhanced” menu that includes a salad bar.

Meanwhile, Aramark will provide $25,000 to equip the staff dining area.

A big part of the renovations is upgrading security.

To that end, “we’re going hi-tech,” Rowley said.

According to the warden, new cameras have been installed, and WiFi will eventually be made available.

Hoover said employees will be given email accounts as a way to be more accessible throughout the prison and make communication among staff easier.

As of now, the prison has 54 full-time officers and seven part time.

Watt is thankful for the added help of the part-time officers, saying overtime has been reduced drastically since they were hired.

Staff training is going well, and the prison is waiting for a new group of hires. However, there have been some resignations as officers find other jobs in law enforcement, she noted.

As for the prisons’ $4.2 million revenue budget, the warden said he is optimistic they will be able to meet it.

However, at the moment the prison is about $200,000 behind its revenue projection, though Rowley said one area county is waiting to send quite a few more female inmates here. That move is tied to tied to food services, Hoover said.

A new memorandum of understanding between Correct Care and the prison also was approved. Reviewed by prison solicitor Rocco Rosamilia, the new agreement spells out in detail who pays for pharmacy medications. Snyder said he was happy about the new MOU, saying that billing for pharmacy medication for inmates will be more accurate as Clinton County had paid for out-of-county inmates’ prescriptions. Correct Care is changing its billing to the appropriate third parties.

The final motion of the meeting involved the acceptance of the resignation of Watt, effective Sept. 19.

Rowley said he’s sad to see Watt leave. Other board members agreed.

“She has helped us move forward,” Rowely said. “We wish her well. We could not have found a harder worker.”

The board also passed a motion allowing the warden to distribute Watt’s duties to his staff until he can find a replacement.