In Thursday’s Prison Board meeting, Lancaster County prison warden Cheryl Steberger announced the date for the next public “listening session” on new correctional facility being planned in Lancaster Township near the county’s Central Park.
It will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10, in at the County Government Center, 150 N. Queen St.
There were some questions, though, over the process, as advocates asked whether they would be allowed to ask questions and have them answered.
The Rev. Jason Perkowski, a member of Power Interfaith, asked for the listening session to be more “interactive” than the ones he has attended in the past.
Commissioner and Prison Board Chairman Josh Parsons said the primary goal of the listening session is to get information, and suggested that residents bring questions to future Prison Board or commissioner’s meetings. The listening session will not be livestreamed, he said.
Prison Board members urged the public to look at the program draft report (PDF) presented to the commissioners earlier this month and available through the correctional facility project website. It’s a comprehensive document, they said, providing layout, descriptions of functional spaces and much more.
It should be a starting point for residents to do research and bring their input to the board, they said.
“We need everyone’s perspective,” said Commissioner Ray D’Agostino. “It needs to be an informed perspective.”
“Everything is still open to discussion, design,” said Commissioner John Trescot. “There’s a lot of info there.”
Parsons called the draft report “the focus of our feedback going forward.”
Jonathan Fox of the group Have a Heart raised concerns about the advertising of the listening session, how it will go, and what form the residents’ input can take.
“Will we be listening to them,” he asked, “and will they be listening to us?”
Progress in combating suicide
In other prison news, Warden Steberger reported positive effects of efforts to decrease and prevent inmate suicides – there has been no inmate suicide, she said, for two years. That’s a big improvement from years past.
Steberger cited the involvement of staff and volunteers from outside agencies.
She also talked about staff efforts to assist newly released inmates in getting state ID, accessing financial resources, and reintegrating into society. Staff members are “going above and beyond,” she said, and showing compassion and care.
The prison’s Medication Assisted Treatment program is now serving 48 inmates. Since the start of the program, over 245 inmates have been treated for substance abuse issues.
Steberger said her staff is continuing to visit other prison facilities around the country, in order to gather ideas to incorporate into Lancaster County’s new facility.