Commissioners say county jail crowding costs taxpayers $480,000 per year

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – There used to be room to spare.

Franklin County’s Board of Commissioners hashed out the complexities of crowding at the county jail during their meeting on Thursday. The warden gave a report saying the jail population has gone from 300 to more than 500 in the last four to five years.

The facility has a maximum capacity of 500, so additional inmates must be sent to other counties. This practice creates additional expenses as well as hardships for family members attempting to visit.

Back when the jail population wasn’t so high, Franklin County made agreements to lease beds to Fulton County and the federal government. Leasing brought in additional funds. However, even factoring in that revenue, Franklin County leaders say the expenses of sending inmates to other facilities adds up to 40,000 tax dollars per month or roughly $480,000 per year.

As a result, Franklin County commissioners are considering ending the leasing practices. Fulton County commissioners say such an action would send their own county into a crisis.

“It’s a very complex issue,” Chair of the Board of Commissioners David Keller said. “We’re working as hard as we can to figure out the best way to address it, but it’s just going to take some time.”

Solving the underlying issues will take even longer. Some have pointed to the opioid crisis as a factor in skyrocketing inmate populations, while others have pointed to the fact that more people are moving to Franklin County.

Franklin County commissioners say they’re taking a hard look at beefing up programs to keep people out of jail in the first place, treat inmate drug and alcohol issues, and prevent inmates from becoming repeat offenders.

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