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Number of inmates at Westmoreland County Prison expected to keep rising

Rich Cholodofsky
| Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, 12:39 p.m.
The Westmoreland County Prison
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
The Westmoreland County Prison

The inmate population at Westmoreland County Prison increased more than 3 percent in 2017, and officials expect that trend to continue into the new year.

Warden John Walton told the county's prison board Monday that despite ongoing efforts to control potential overcrowding, the numbers have steadily risen throughout the year.

The jail can hold up to 711 inmates.

On Monday, it had 660. In November, the jail housed an overage of 675 inmates a day.

The average length of stay for inmates was 124 days. Inmates sentenced to serve more than two years are sent to the state prison system.

The rising number of inmates has had an effect on the bottom line. The county is required to pay Wexford Health Sources, a private company that provides inmate medical services, an additional fee if the jail averages more than 650 inmates a month on top of a base charge of $2 million this year.

Walton said the additional fees for 2017 will approach $15,000.

County and jail officials last year attributed the increase to the ongoing opioid drug epidemic . At one point in 2016, Walton said that more than 70 percent of incoming inmates required treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, with most addicted to opiates such as heroin.

To help with possible jail overcrowding problems, the county is looking into buying a portable housing unit from owners of the former SCI Greensburg in Hempfield. They also have contracted with Greene and Indiana counties to house overflow inmates, if necessary, at a cost of $50 to $55 a day.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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