HONESDALE -- The Wayne County Commissioners have decided to explore the feasibility of merging correctional operations with neighboring Pike County after reviewing reports from an independent, professional prison consultant.
Commissioners cited the change in philosophy of incarceration at the national and local levels over the past decade, including the increased use of successful programs such as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, Intermediate Punishment, Probation and Treatment Courts, which have led to reduced prison populations locally. These programs have kept individuals who, in the past, would have been incarcerated, out of prison and home, at work and with their families, giving them the ability to be productive members of society. As this trend toward reform continues, costs to operate the facility have increased.
When Pike and Wayne county’s correctional facilities were built, they were appropriately sized with the expectations at the time that county populations and, therefore, inmate numbers would increase. The opposite has happened as populations have flattened and inmate numbers have significantly dropped.
Both Wayne and Pike County, in keeping with the national trend, have significantly reduced their jail populations. Pike County’s prison population declined, on average, about 10% per year, for the past six years. Wayne County Prison’s average daily population was 104 in 2013 and in 2019 was down to 53, a decrease of more than 50 percent.
The Wayne County Board of Commissioners, recognizing the trend, hired a consultant earlier this summer to look into the economic impact these dwindling inmate numbers have created. Subsequently, a Wayne County Prison Board study committee reviewed the consultant’s report and its findings, which led to the Wayne County Prison Board recommending to the commissioners a more detailed feasibility study.
Within the next six weeks, studies will be completed to consider all aspects of a potential merger with Pike County and whether it is feasible. This includes exploring employment opportunities for current staff, programming for inmates, economic impacts, effects on county departments including the court system, the sheriff’s office for the transportation of inmates, human services and others, and the future use of the current correctional facility, as well as the consideration of the affordability of the current prison operation for the future.