Prompt release of inmates stirs prison board debate
SUNBURY - The prompt release of county inmates eligible for parole was at issue during Wednesday's prison board meeting.
Commissioner Chairman Vinny Clausi said seven inmates eligible for parole Friday were delayed release at least one week because of a failed approval process. He blamed Warden Roy Johnson as well as the county's corrections committee, which meets weekly to review applications from inmates who have served their minimum sentence.
Such delays cost Northumberland County an estimated $9,000 last month, Clausi said, and more than $100,000 in 2013.
Johnson denied he intentionally or unintentionally delayed reviewing and signing inmate parole paperwork. He said he's never let an application sit on his desk longer than five days without writing a recommendation to the corrections committee. It makes no sense to keep inmates longer than necessary, he said, as it complicates operations and balloons the inmate population.
Johnson said he became aware of four inmates whose parole applications were reportedly delayed. Further investigation showed they lacked additional necessary paperwork for approval, he said. The warden added that complications with inmates in securing residency before release can also delay the process.
Jim Cortelyou, chief probation officer, said Wednesday he could not confirm the amount alleged by Clausi, but that the parole paperwork has been delayed in making it to his department. He didn't know how many inmates were delayed parole in June, but said it costs the county about $55 a day to house an inmate.
Brandy Yasenchak, court administrator, confirmed that President Judge William H. Wiest appointed her to chair the committee this week. She replaces Wiest's law clerk, Heath Brosius. She had previously served as the chair when she was a law clerk for former President Judge Robert B. Sacavage.
Clausi said the committee couldn't review the applications Friday because it didn't have a quorum to meet. That spurred Wiest's move to appoint Yasenchak as chair, Clausi said.