Lackawanna County reviews possible release of low level inmates to mitigate spread of COVID-19

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Prison officials in Lackawanna County are going as far as releasing some inmates to stop the spread of the virus within prison walls.

It’s essentially temporary criminal justice reform in the wake of a global pandemic. Lackawanna County judges and officials are taking a proactive precaution against possible virus spread inside the jail.

The files of every low-level offender behind the walls at Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton are being reviewed. The goal? Balancing the population and eliminating crowding amid coronavirus concerns.

“We’ll be reviewing the files and giving it to the judge to make recommendations as well as the prison. These people have been there for a while and they have counselors there. They will be able to also forward recommendations to the court,” President Judge Michael Barrasse said.

Judges, the sheriff’s office and attorneys all taking a look at those with minimal time left on their sentence, who have a clean record in the prison, and may get some form of a second chance.

“We’re looking at people who have one foot out the door already. For example, those people that are in work release, who have a minimum date and that’s going to have them out the door in a few weeks anyway, so let’s get them out now,” Barrasse said.

The county’s priority is to minimize people in and out of the prison, which would deter a possible spread from an already isolated population. Much of the county has already postponed some preliminary hearings and changed over to online forms of communication. But we want your opinion. Is this a good idea?

Lisa Lisa on Facebook replied that ‘These people are human beings. They’ve made mistakes and there’s a reason this is being considered.’

Barbara Ann Prosen-Monroe argued “Prisoners have a better chance of not being exposed and it’s safer to keep them in there.”

Officials involved say this is the first time they’ve ever had to deal with something on this scale and are being thorough.

“Obviously the number one thing we are looking for is public safety so we are not in any matter, shape, or form going to look to release someone that we feel is a danger to society,” Barrasse said.

It’s not known how many inmates are up for early parole or forms of release but some of them may need varying treatment. Barrasse says they’ve been working step by step to accommodate services within the Lackawanna Susquehanna Drug and Alcohol Commission to make sure that happens.

As of right now, there is no time set for when this may happen. We’ll be sure to bring you the latest details as that plan develops.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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