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Westmoreland County Prison nears its capacity

| Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 7:30 a.m.

The inmate population at Westmoreland County Prison is growing rapidly.

Warden John Walton on Monday told members of the county's prison board that the jail is nearing capacity.

“Our population is up drastically,” Walton said.

On Monday, 615 inmates were assigned to the jail. Though the facility has a capacity of 701 inmates, there were only a few open beds available.

Walton said that if inmate numbers continue to rise, newcomers will have to be housed in areas dedicated to booking, inmate labor staff, protective custody and the disciplinary unit.

“We have the beds, so we're still functioning OK. It's the highest we've been in a long time,” Walton said.

In May, the jail averaged 572 inmates. During 2012, an average of 529 inmates were detained at the 21-year-old facility in Hempfield.

Walton said 104 new inmates were committed in the past week. A majority of those were jailed for not appearing in court.

Walton said 65 new inmates were detained on bench warrants from county judges.

The prison population last spiked in October 2012, when more than 630 inmates were housed at the facility.

Last year, inspectors from the National Institute of Corrections recommended to county officials that the prison board address potential overcrowding.

Originally, the facility's capacity was 450 inmates. When its population spiked a decade ago, officials started adding second bunks to cells to increase the capacity to its limit.

The population hit a high mark in 2006 when a record 641 inmates were housed.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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