CLARION — As coronavirus cases continue to climb in Clarion and surrounding counties, visitation at the Clarion County Jail is once again restricted.

In the wake of Clarion County’s recent decision to close its county buildings to the public, jail Warden Jeff Hornberger said that the practice carries over to the Paint Township facility as well.

“There is no visitation currently,” Hornberger told prison board members at their Nov. 12 meeting, which was held via Zoom. The warden explained that up until the Nov. 9 county lockdown, the jail had been conducting non-contact, in-person visits between inmates and their families. “That halted when the county buildings went on lockdown.”

Although prison board members voted in August to install a remote visitation system at the jail, Hornberger said the equipment cannot be installed until the county approves the contract with GTL, the jail’s telephone provider.

“I’ll have to send a copy back to GTL to get things moving with the video visitations,” he said of the contract, adding that it could take between 30 and 60 days once the contract is approved to get the equipment installed and functional. “It would be just upgrading our contract with GTL.”

In related business, jail officials also agreed to continue the suspension of the jail’s work release program.

“We can’t allow work release to start without the county buildings being open,” Hornberger said, pointing out that the jail’s doctor has also recently returned to virtual visits due to COVID-19. “Everything is still on hold at this point with work release.”

In other business, Hornberger reported that nine inmates were tested for COVID-19 and all of the results came back negative.

“Those were all for inmates going to state prison,” he said, noting that the state Department of Corrections is once again accepting inmates following a shutdown due to a coronavirus outbreak at SCI Camp Hill. In fact, he said, Sheriff Rex Munsee and his deputies transported seven male inmates to state prison the week prior. “We still currently have about five people to go to state prison.”

Other Business

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• For the month of October, Hornberger reported a total of 45 commitments and 45 releases at the Clarion County Jail. The average daily population last month was 74 inmates.

As of last Thursday, the jail had a total of 63 inmates in house.

• The prison board agreed to pay half of the cost to purchase a JLG scissor lift from GM Equipment Corp.

With a total price of $11,695, half of the money will come from the jail’s pass-through account, while the other half will be paid out of the county’s general fund.

“It will be used at the prison quite a bit, especially for changing lightbulbs and fixture maintenance with the high ceilings,” prison board chairman Commissioner Wayne Brosius said.

In fact, Hornberger said that the lift had already been used once at the jail.

“It’s already come in handy,” he said, explaining that the equipment was used to change light fixtures. “It’s already starting to pay for itself.”

Munsee, who is also a prison board member, questioned why the equipment was purchased without first obtaining prison board approval.

“I’m not against [the purchase], but I’m against not being in the know about it,” said Munsee, who ultimately voted against the purchase for that reason. “It should have come before the prison board before it was purchased.”

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