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Fayette County prison study group aims to curb repeat offenses

| Friday, April 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Fayette County group exploring ways to improve prison operations on Thursday discussed programs aimed at reducing recidivism that a new jail should be able to accommodate.

County Commissioner Al Ambrosini organized the panel in November. Its members meet monthly to report on progress individual teams have made regarding ways to improve prison operations.

The group's recommendations — which will include suggestions for everything from implementing mental health and drug and alcohol programs to building a prison — are to be presented to the prison board by the end of the year, Ambrosini said.

Ambrosini said team members on Thursday discussed programs that should be in place at the jail to reduce recidivism, including ones that will help inmates address mental health issues and drug and alcohol problems.

One team member suggested a new jail have a “family friendly” area where inmates can visit with their children because studies have shown that such visits help reduce recidivism, he said.

The current jail, Ambrosini said, does not have the facilities to accommodate most such programs.

In addition, the group noted that a new prison should have an infirmary that is better capable of handling inmates' needs than the current jail. Warden Brian Miller said the jail recently sent an inmate to a Pittsburgh hospital for a 45-day stay, but he said he was uncertain whether that particular inmate's needs could be addressed by a modern infirmary.

Commissioners have made no decision regarding whether to build a new prison.

Ambrosini said the county spent approximately $750,000 last year on rental fees to other counties to house Fayette's inmates when the jail in Uniontown was overcrowded.

Miller said the Greene County Prison currently has 68 of Fayette's inmates. The jail, which has a maximum capacity of 262, as of Thursday had 250 inmates, Miller said.

Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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