SUNBURY - An order issued by Northumberland County President Judge William H. Wiest after the prison board meeting Tuesday establishes the rules for a holding cell at the county prison.

Creation of the three-page document was put into motion after Magisterial District Judge Hugh A. Jones, of Mount Carmel; Coal Township Police Chief William Carpenter, Mount Carmel Township Police Chief Brian Hollenbush and Milton Police Chief Craig Lutcher attended Tuesday's prison board meeting to push the county to action.

Three months ago, the prison board passed a motion to adjust the 2014 prison budget to fund staff for the holding cell, but nothing has been done since that meeting.

Confusion existed among Warden Roy Johnson and members of the board Tuesday about whether the holding cell and its funding was approved by the commissioners.

When county budget director Jeff McClintock said $50,000 had been moved to the prison budget, board members said an order would be filed to move the process along, which was filed by Wiest later that day.

Contacted Wednesday, Johnson said he's not sure when the cell will first be used, but he and Magisterial District Judge Benjamin Apfelbaum, of Sunbury, have been working together to make it happen.

"It'll be a positive thing. It will free up the police officers to get back on the street instead of just having to watch over someone already in custody," Johnson said.

No new staff, more hours

Under the holding cell system, those who commit crimes during late evening or early morning hours will be taken by police to the prison, where they will be held for arraignment the next day by the magisterial district judge in whose jurisdiction the crime occurred.

The money will not fund new positions but will allow additional hours for part-time correctional officers who will oversee the cell, Johnson said.

The holding cell will be located on the bottom floor of the prison, where five cells already exist, he said.

More guidelines

According to Wiest's order, defendants arrested between 4:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays can be detained at the county prison until arraignment via video conference call at the magisterial district judge's home or office can be arranged.

For defendants detained on weekends, the on-call district judge will appear in person or by video within 48 hours or on the next business day without unnecessary delay, Wiest said.

The arresting officer must provide a copy of the criminal complaint to the judge, the defendant and prison officials.

Defendants detained after hours on Fridays will be arraigned by an on-call judge between 8 and 10 a.m. Sundays by video or in person.

If the district attorney can certify that the prosecution of the case would be impaired if the arraignment is delayed during the off-periods, it is the district attorney's obligation to contact the on-call judge to explain, Wiest's order states.

Should an emergency arise with regard to overcrowding of the holding cells, the appropriate judge shall be contacted to schedule an immediate arraignment to alleviate the situation, the order says.