State Corrections leader offers help during tour of aging Fayette County Prison
State Corrections Secretary John Wetzel toured the almost 125-year-old Fayette County Prison on Friday and assured county commissioners that he would help them in their quest to reduce recidivism.
“Nobody enjoys spending money on corrections, but it's a special duty of government,” Wetzel said. “We'll do the best we can to work with you. We want to be partners and help out wherever we can.”
A new county prison would solve problems related to overcrowding and housing inmates out of county, while allowing the staff to spend more time rehabilitating prisoners, Fayette Commission Chairman Al Ambrosini told Wetzel.
Wetzel and other Corrections officials toured the prison with Ambrosini; Warden Brian Miller; state Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-South Union; prison Chaplain Terry Sanders; and others.
“The decision is economics,” Ambrosini told Wetzel, adding that as inmates get General Educational Development diplomas, learn job skills and end recidivism — “all of that, you get along with a modern, efficient facility.”
“It's something we need to do,” Ambrosini added. “It's as simple as that.”
Ambrosini told Wetzel, who served as warden of the Franklin County Jail when a new lockup was built there, that housing Fayette prisoners in other counties generates additional expenses for transportation and overtime for staff.
“That creates a logistical nightmare for the management of this facility,” he said.
Ambrosini and fellow Democratic Commissioner Vince Zapotosky invited Wetzel to tour the facility several weeks ago.
State Corrections officials inspected the prison last week, but Fayette officials have not yet learned the results.
Ambrosini and Zapotosky, who went on part of the tour using a cane because of recent knee surgery, support building a new prison, while Republican Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink says other steps can be taken to avoid constructing a facility.
County officials are looking at a prison that would have up to 480 beds and cost about $31 million.
“We're looking at building so we don't have to add on for 10 years,” Ambrosini said.
Miller estimates that 45 inmates are being housed elsewhere at an average cost of “$80,000 a month,” plus transportation and overtime expenses. The county generally has about 240 prisoners on-site and is considering building a temporary jail in Uniontown to house female prisoners.
Miller said he would like to alleviate recidivism, and a larger facility with more space would help.
“We've got to ... break this cycle that they keep coming back,” the warden said.
The Corrections Department will do what it can to help, Wetzel said.
Zimmerlink said a new prison is not needed and county officials need to give more time for newer programs, such as mental health, veterans and drug courts, to work.
She maintains that the overcrowding figures cited by others were inflated.
If a new prison is needed, she said, then the county should build a smaller prison annex on the courthouse grounds, use empty Uniontown buildings or bring in modular pods used by other prisons for housing.
“We can address the overcrowding and recidivism by other means, rather than building a brand-new facility,” Zimmerlink said.
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mill Run taxidermist honored at North American Taxidermy Championship
- Red Cross says blood supply runs short in Greater Allegheny region
- Hempfield man accused of setting Dumpster ablaze in Fayette County
- Connellsville church collects goods, money for the needy
- Connellsville Recreation Board installs signs in parks
- New HR director in place in Fayette; commissioner remains opposed to hiring
- Zimmerlink seeking 4th term in Fayette
- Connellsville Housing Authority properties to get upgrades
- Building damaged, no injuries after Fayette recycling center fire
- Detours in place for work on routes 51, 30, 2027
- Mancuso running for register of wills in Fayette