Could Former Juvenile Center Solve Prison Overcrowding Concerns?

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) It used to be the center of a problem.. and now  it could be a solution. The former Juvenile Detention center in Luzerne County that was at the heart of the kids-for-cash scandal is making headlines again. but this time as a way to save cash. Eyewitness News has learned that talks are underway to use the old juvenile detention center in Wilkes-Barre to house female inmates. The current prison is dealing with overcrowding issues. and that is costing tax-payers a lot of money. Our Lead I- Team Reporter Andy Mehalshick is in   with the details.

Some say it still haunts the taxpayers of Luzerne County, the old juvenile detention center overlooking the Luzerne County Prison.

Juveniles used to be sent here but it was closed by two county judges as part of a scheme to send them to a private center in which they had a financial interest, the so called Kids for Cash scandal that gained national attention.

But now what to do with the building?..

"That is a piece of  property the county has had for years. We continue to own it. We have nothing going on right now. Lets make some decisions to address that issue." Said Dave Pedri, Luzerne County Manager.

There is talk now to use the old center to house female inmates. At this moment the main prison located nearby can only house 100.  When they surpass that number, female inmates are sent to other facilities.  That is costing the county a lot money- about $300,000 at year.

If the county uses the old Juvenile facility- it can house more female inmates and possibly take in female inmates from other areas generating money for their upkeep.

But the old building is far from a turnkey operation.

 "All the systems have been removed,  the heating system taken out, the the wiring, the plumbing taken out,  so it's really a vacant building no systems in place." said Ted McGinley, Luzerne County Council

  County council has to decide if they want to use this building.  If they try to renovate it..those cost estimates range between $3 million and 5 million dollars. Or tear it down at a cost of about $400,000 dollars and build a new facility. Either way it will cost money  but one council member told the I-Team in the long run a new facility will pay for itself. County Council is expected to discuss the issue at its next meeting.


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