CLARION – After finishing 2018 more than $100,000 under budget, a statewide statistical report indicates that the Clarion County Jail is one of the most fiscally responsible jails in the commonwealth.
Highlighting figures from jails all over the state, the report — recently presented to Clarion County Jail officials by jail Warden Jeff Hornberger — shows that the local jail has the sixth-lowest operating budget in Pennsylvania.
“All in all, Clarion County has something to be proud of,” Hornberger told prison board members at their May 9 meeting, explaining the Paint Township facility finished 2018 $119,215 under its original $2,530,894 budget. “County prisons are a burden on all counties no matter where you’re at...[but] I know we’re doing something right.”
According to Hornberger, the average cost to house an inmate in the 126-bed Clarion County Jail is $65.42 per day, $18.25 less than the state average of $83.67 per day.
“I think that’s very good,” he said, noting that his figures include all jail expenses. “Some administrators might take [some line items out of the cost].” With a 158-bed facility, the average daily cost to house an inmate in Armstrong County is $81.21, while Elk and Indiana counties foot bills of $120.03 and $143.37 per day respectively for their 78-bed and 256-bed facilities.
In Clearfield County, where the jail has 139 beds, the average daily cost per inmate is just a few cents less than Clarion County at $65.32. The 211-bed facility in Jefferson County averages $48.31 per day, while the Venango County Jail, which has 174 beds, shows a daily average of $48.31 per inmate.
When it comes to 2018 jail budgets in other counties, three surrounding counties ended 2018 with actual expenses totaling more than their original budgets. They include: Armstrong County — started at $4,254,409, ended at $4,615,963; Clearfield County — started at $3,683,327, ended at $3,862,603; and Indiana County —started at $7,831,276, ended at $7,849,683.
Like Clarion County, three other surrounding counties also ended 2018 under their original budgets. They include: Elk County — started at $2,964,171, ended at $2,935,277; Jefferson County — started at $3,342,920, ended at $3,242,632; and Venango County — started at $3,104,687, ended at $2,927,187.
Hornberger credited Clarion County’s budgetary success to teamwork within the county, as well as lower inmate numbers thanks to newly implemented specialized court programs
“I attribute it to the district attorney who helps tremendously, probation and the judge’s office,” he said, explaining that the average jail population in 2018 was 101 inmates, a decrease from the previous year. “They come up with a lot of innovative specialized courts such as treatment court and behavior court to lower our numbers.”
“It also helps that the prison board works very well with us,” he continued. “It takes everyone working together.”
In other business during the May 9 meeting, Hornberger reported that preliminary results indicate that the jail has earned a full compliance rating from a recent state inspection.
An official report is still being completed, Hornberger said, but if all is well in the final document, the jail’s next inspection will not take place until 2021.
“I have to thank all the staff, everyone from the part-time officers, cooks, maintenance guys, counselors, nurses,” he said. “It takes everyone working as a team to get that accomplished.”