Meeting later this month could concern holding cell proposal
SUNBURY - A special county commissioners' meeting scheduled later this month reportedly involves the establishment of a holding cell at Northumberland County Prison designed to save money and manpower and allow the court system to operate more efficiently.
Commissioner Chairman Vinny Clausi on Monday did not confirm nor deny that the holding cell proposal is the reason for the meeting. He said the subject of the meeting is something he has discussed with Magisterial District Judges John Gembic III of Shamokin and Hugh A. Jones of Mount Carmel for more than a year. He praised both judges for their cooperation.
Commissioners announced Friday they will hold a special meeting with judicial and law enforcement officials on an unspecified cost-saving "intake process."
Clausi said he didn't want to go into detail about the plan since he hadn't yet discussed the idea directly with police officers.
However, he said magisterial district judges are on board and he believes everyone will be pleased.
According to the commissioners' press release, the proposal will "streamline the intake process into the criminal justice system" and will save "the county and municipalities a significant amount of money."
"The proposed plan will also lead to a substantial reduction in police 'down time,' allowing the police and state troopers to maximize their time patrolling and protecting the public safety in their respective jurisdictions," according to the release.
Discussed in June
In June, Gembic praised Northumberland County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage for endorsing the holding cell idea at the prison.
With that system, those who commit crimes during late evening or early morning hours would be taken by police to the prison, where they would be held for arraignment the next day by the magisterial district judge in whose jurisdiction the crime occurred.
Gembic previously said a holding cell would allow defendants to cool down before facing a judge, especially people involved in domestic disturbances. He said defendants would be responsible for paying a process fee and would go before a judge who would be more familiar with their background than a judge from another area of the county.
Gembic, who also said Monday he could not divulge the reason for the special meeting, previously said arraigning and conducting preliminary hearings for defendants as soon as possible allows the court system to operate more efficiently by reducing the backlog of cases.
For inmates charged with less serious crimes, such as probation violations, video arraignments benefit defendants because they don't have to wait several days to go personally in front of a judge. Transportation and paperwork issues can sometimes cause delays.
Gembic estimated the average stay in prison for an inmate is two weeks.
By arraigning them and conducting their hearings as quickly as possible, the time they spend in prison can be cut in half, he said.