Lancaster County Correctional Commission Rejects Change to ‘Inmate General Welfare Fund’ | Local News
The Lancaster County Jail Board rejected a resolution Thursday morning to divert less revenue generated from inmate purchases to the county general fund.
The question is what happens to the money inmates pay for things like phone calls or access to emails. The rule limits the amount of money the county can store in a fund from these fees. Currently, if the account accumulates more than $500,000, the excess money is transferred to the general fund, the county’s main checking account.
The resolution, which failed 3-4, came from Democratic County Commissioner John Trescot, who said the “General Inmate Welfare Fund” was growing at a faster rate than in previous years and a most of this revenue should stay in the prison for the benefit of inmates.
The general inmate welfare fund helps pay for recreational and sports activities inside the prison, television and movies, holiday decorations, a law library, educational programs and religious services, according to the prison website.
On Thursday morning, Trescot said the fund held about $1.4 million. The high number was partly due to the fact that county officials did not transfer any excess balances to the general fund at the end of last year. By then, the account balance had increased by almost $1 million.
County Comptroller Lisa Colon said her office will transfer the excess money to the general fund later Thursday. The regulations require this to happen at the end of each year, and Colon said the transfer should have happened then.
Trescot eventually offered to increase the maximum balance from $500,000 to $1 million. Republican Comptroller Lisa Colon and Presiding Judge David Ashworth voted with Trescot in favor of the change.
Republican commissioners Ray D’Agostino and Josh Parsons voted against the motion, arguing that county taxpayers should get a bigger share of the extra dollars to help offset the costs of running the facility as a whole. The two, however, said they were willing to move the threshold to $750,000 as a compromise.
Parsons, chairman of the prison commission, said Trescot can bring the article back for a vote at the commission’s next monthly meeting.
Lancaster County Sheriff Chris Leppler and Assistant District Attorney Mark Fetterman also voted against the measure, saying they agreed with Parsons and D’Agostino’s positions. Fetterman replaced District Attorney Heather Adams at Thursday’s prison board meeting.
Lancaster County Jail charges inmates for a wide variety of services. They must first create an account to make purchases inside the establishment. This includes a $35 processing fee, according to the jail’s website.
Future deposits are also subject to transaction and processing fees. Inmates can rent tablets for $5 a month to watch movies, listen to music, access books and make phone calls.
To use the prison’s telephone services, inmates or their family members pay about 21 cents per minute, according to the website of the telephone company, Securus Technologies. Additional charges apply when an inmate or family member adds more money to their account.
As prison officials reported on Thursday, about 61% of inmates at the prison are waiting for their criminal cases to continue. The other inmates are serving their sentence after a criminal conviction.