Overview of the Lancaster County Prison
The Lancaster County Prison is located on the eastern side of Lancaster City where it was constructed in 1852. The prison was originally built in the style of a medieval castle and retains much of that original appearance today. The prison has undergone many renovations and expansions over the years with the most recent renovations being completed in 1992. The prison is only the third structure built as a jail in the county since Lancaster County incorporated in 1729. The prison was the site of public hangings up to 1912.
The Lancaster County Prison of today, incarcerates within its walls, maximum, medium, minimum and trustee security level inmates. It holds both men and women, with a daily prison population average of over 800 in 1996. The prison housing capacity can be expanded beyond its present 953 bed capacity, should the need to do so arise. On an annual basis there are over 5000 admissions to the prison with an approximately equal number of discharges.
The prisoner population is composed primarily of inmates from the age of 18 on up, although there is a provision in the Pennsylvania state law for holding violent youthful offenders, subject to certain conditions under the age of 18. The majority of prisoners held, approximately 65 percent, have not been tried and/or are awaiting some type of court action. The remaining 40 percent are sentenced in some fashion, fully or partially to terms of imprisonment, for which they receive a minimum term and a maximum term. There also is provision for what is termed a flat sentence which in reality is solely a maximum term sentence. The minimum term may not exceed one-half the maximum term of sentence. A prisoner is eligible for parole after serving their minimum term. Being eligible for parole does not mean automatic release, as the prisoners approval for release on parole is subject to review by a judge on county sentence cases and by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole on state sentenced cases and may be conditioned on a variety of factors. A prisoner may be sentenced to any term of imprisonment in the county prison less than five years. Prisoners with maximums of five years or more, must be sentenced by law to the State Correctional System.
The prison is visited by over 30,000 civilians annually, most coming in to visit their family or friends on a contact visitation system. The inmates receive ample visitation every day of the week, but are scheduled in such a way that each inmate receives three visiting periods per week.
The prison has a full security force trained and capable of maintaining the custody and control of the inmate population. Additionally the prison employs support staff to fulfill our care responsibilities for the inmate population. The treatment services staff handles counseling, medical, psychiatric, mental health, mental retardation, education and vocational services, work release programming and other related activities, inclusive of the large number of community services program operating at the prison such as NA and AA, Thresholds, Volunteers in Probation / Parole, to name but a few. Treatment services also has the religious counseling in mind, with a full time chaplain assisted by a number of assistant chaplains together with a core of volunteers who coordinate all religious programming and services of both mainstream and non traditional denominations. The Lancaster County area is highly religion oriented and we enjoy over 200 active religious volunteers.
The prisoners physical needs are also met by a capable plant operations section, that takes care of the daily rigors of maintaining a complex structure in a hostile destructive environment. The prison areas are state of the art technology with camera monitoring, computerized environmental controls and the like.
The support services also provide the daily needs of the inmates via a uniform and linen exchange operation, with an in-house commissary also being available to the inmate population.
The prison also maintains a fiscal office to administer and control its annual budget of approximately $22,000,000. A somewhat unique procedure that we have utilized since 1995 is our prisoner cost recovery program. All prisoners sentenced to the Lancaster County Prison are charged a fee of $ 10.00 per day for every day they are sentenced. The prisoners are also personally responsible for any and all medical costs that are due to preexisting or self inflicted conditions. It is our belief that the prisoner has an economic responsibility for their incarceration as well.
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