WHY NO NEW CENTRE COUNTY PRISON
by Julian Heicklen
Published in the Centre Daily Times May 27, 2001
With sentencing practices prior to 1972, we would have 45 inmates in the Centre County Prison, and our 78-bed facility would be adequate. However, we have gone prison crazy, so that we average 140 inmates, of which about 70 are housed in the Clinton County Prison. We have over 2500 adults on probation or parole in Centre County, because there is not enough room in the prison.
If we build the 300-bed prison proposed by the county commissioners, it will be filled within two months, and we still will have 70 inmates housed in Clinton County. Then the commissioners will add another 300 beds, for which they already have made plans, and there still will be 70 inmates housed in Clinton County. This will give us a prison population of 670.
The commissioners claim that the new prison will cost between $22 and $28 million. However, there will be cost overruns and additions. Furthermore, the prison will be expanded immediately from 300 to 600 beds. The total cost will be between $40 and $50 million, or over $400 for every adult in Centre County.
In addition, there will be the cost to house all of these prisoners. The annual cost to house 670 inmates will be about $12.7 million, which is more than the county raises each year from all of its taxes. Since 1995, the Centre County property tax millage increased 72%. If the proposed prison is built, there will be another 50—100% increase in the Centre County property tax millage. In addition to that, Judge Brown wants to renovate the old prison to expand the courthouse. You will have to pay for that also.
These are not the only costs. When a man goes to prison, he loses his job. Thus we lose his income and payroll taxes. His family may have to go on welfare. We pay for that also. You cannot afford to let the commissioners build that new prison.