SUNBURY - Northumberland County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage signed an administrative order Wednesday to expand the county's house arrest program to reduce costs while allowing non-violent offenders to obtain jobs and lead productive lives.

Sacavage's order outlines eligibility requirements, policies and procedures and program costs.

Earlier this month, prison board members said as many as 40 non-violent prisoners from the county prison would be placed on house arrest under the expanded program. County commissioners previously said the move could save approximately $500,000 a year while also alleviating an overcrowded prison population, which totaled 270 as of Nov. 7.

Under the plan spearheaded by Sacavage, Commissioner Vinny Clausi and chief adult probation officer Dave Wondoloski, non-violent inmates would be released and confined to their homes under the house arrest program. The program will allow offenders to transition into the community, find employment, further their education, complete community service programs, pay fines, fees, costs and restitution and complete medical and behavioral programs.

Currently, Northumberland County uses a good-time policy that allows certain offenders to benefit from early release prior to the expiration of minimum sentence pursuant to good time earned subject to the written policy established by the county prison.

A second element of the county's re-entry program is the house arrest with parole transition program, which initially applied to those offenders being sentenced on revocation and will allow eligible offenders to be released prior to expiration of minimum sentence to a 30-day house arrest program with subsequent parole.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the program may be used on any new sentence imposed by the court. Eligibility requirements

- The prisoner's total maximum sentence must be less than 2 years.

- Sexual-based offenses are not eligible.

- Violent offenses and offenders with a documented violent history are not eligible (including but not limited to arson, aggravated assault and offenses committed with a weapon).

- DUI cases that are not eligible for DUI court or Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) would be eligible provided the minimum sentence is at least 90 days.

- At the time of sentencing, the judge must make the defendant eligible for a re-entry plan, which must be part of the sentence and recorded and entered as part of the official record.

- The prisoner must have no misconducts while incarcerated and have no detainers or warrants pending.

- The prisoner must pay a $50 hookup fee.

- The prisoner must have a landline telephone at their residence.

- The prosecutor must be given at least 10 days written notice and the opportunity to be heard prior to the judge granting parole.

Policy and procedure

- Home plan will be completed by an officer of the house arrest unit of the county adult probation and parole office.

- Prisoners must still apply for parole and the application will be considered by the county corrections committee to be voted on for early parole.

- House arrest hookups shall be completed as soon as administratively possible.

- Offenders will be supervised at a medium level of supervision. Home visits will not be required, but may be performed on a case-by-case basis if warranted.

- Prisoners will only be allowed to leave their homes for employment, medical appointments and religious services.

- Any violation of early parole conditions shall result in incarceration.

- Upon completion of the 30-day house arrest portion of the re-entry program, the offender shall be transferred to the original or correct geographical probation officer for the remainder of the period of supervision.

- The program shall be limited to 20 offenders per month for the first three months and shall then be re-evaluated for a possible expansion of the program.

Program costs

The price negotiated with the vendor is $2.15 per day, for a total of $64.50 per month per offender. Once expanded to the anticipated 40 offenders, vendor costs would be $2,580 per month. A separate contract with the vendor will be required and the billing will be separate from the regular house arrest program. A new line item will be required on the county prison budget and the probation office will handle the billing and payment process.

Offenders are responsible to pay an Act 35 supervision fee in the amount of $50 per month while serving house arrest or parole supervision. Thereafter, all costs applicable to the Northumberland County Re-Entry Program will be set annually at the time of the adoption of the county budget.