Commissioner wants to study privatization of prison

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – With the Lackawanna County prison under investigation again, one member of the board that oversees the lock-up has had enough.

Commissioner Laureen Cummings raised the idea of possibly privatizing the county jail Wednesday.

As the monthly meeting of the Lackawanna County prison board came to an end, Commissioner Cummings dropped the bombshell.

She made a motion to study the feasibility of privatizing the lock-up in Scranton.

“We’ve got complaints after complaints, lawsuit after lawsuit and maybe it’s time to look at a different route,” Commissioner Cummings said.

The idea died because it didn’t get a “second” by another other members.

While no one voiced immediate opposition, they questioned how much the study would cost and what it would entail, answers Commissioner Cummings said she would look into for next month.

“It was like completely out of left field it seemed to me, as far as privatizing it, it’s like why are we all here then?” Beth Ann Zero of Dunmore said. Zero is with the group NEPA Prison Advocates.

With the prison once again under investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office due to complains of inmates having inappropriate contact with inmates, several members of the public now regularly attend prison board meetings.

They don’t seem to support the idea of privatization.

“We come here because we’re concerned about transparency and accountability and privatization of the prison would mean that there would be really challenges,” Dr. Stephanie Bressler of Scranton said.

After state and federal funding, Commissioner Cummings says the prison costs county taxpayers about $21 million to run each year.

“I’m just as sick and tired of hearing the things that come into our news about the prison as everyone else is in our county and I’m here now and I’m going to try to do something about it,” Commissioner Cummings said.

The next meeting of the Lackawanna County prison board is scheduled for noon on Wednesday, November 15 in downtown Scranton.

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