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Police Concerns About Prisoner Transport

  Police departments in Northumberland County are worried about what's going to happen on April first.

  Mount Carmel Township's police department is like most in our area, dealing with tight budgets, one calamity away from collapse.  So, imagine their frustration when they found out their department, like others across Northumberland County is going to have to resume transporting people they've arrested back and forth between prisons and hearings.  This became a big deal in the wake of the Northumberland County Prison fire because now they're not going to just be traveling to Sunbury, but to Coal Township, Selinsgrove, Bloomsburg, Muncy or even as far away as Lock Haven.  It was in the wake of the fire that the Northumberland County Commissioners made an informal decision to use corrections officers to transport the prisoners, and just as informally, they decided recently that they couldn't afford to do it any longer, so the responsibility will be back in the hands of municipal police departments on Wednesday.  Police chiefs say it could have tremendous ramifications for more than their budgets.  We sat down with the four officers from the eastern part of the county yesterday and while they are close to one of the prisons where they'll transport inmates, it's a state prison, and the process of getting the prisoner in can sometimes add hours to the job.  These officers will be at a meeting of the county police chiefs on Monday and they'll then meet with county officials on April 6th to come up with a plan.  If they can't reach an agreement, they could be looking at a scenario where they have to let an officer go, and the extra work couldn't come at a worse time.  Northumberland Co. Commissioner Rick Shoch says two years ago a decision was made to stop using constables for prisoner transport as a cost savings measure.  He says it only makes sense to bring them back, mainly because the county can be reimbursed over time through payments from the inmates who are transported, saving taxpayers money on both a local and county level, and it's something that could resume fairly quickly.  Shoch says the idea is to find the cheapest solution to do this and he think it's with constables.  He says that while it's technical the municipalities responsibility to transport prisoners, the county should work together with them to reduce costs.


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