A longtime commissioner and prison board member of neighboring Tioga County offered advice to Potter County’s newly formed jail board.
“One thing we worked hard on here, was having an open dialogue,” said Tioga County Commissioner Erick Coolidge, who joined the Potter County Hail Board meeting on Friday, Oct. 1 over the phone. “It’s not anything other than a benefit to hear other perspectives. We think it enhances the environment you work in.”
Coolidge continued, “Those who accepted the responsibility to sit on this board, a lot of what we do is assume these discussions can shed light on something we might not have seen so we don’t overlook anything – whether legally from the district attorney’s point or inmates via the warden,” said Coolidge, adding that these discussions can aid new head warden, Angela Milford.
“Do you receive complaints from inmates that you have to answer to?” he asked Milford. “We share those complaints with the board so we arrive at the correct outcome. We seek counsel from everyone in the room. The idea is to take this group you’ve formulated and use it, use it for its resources, not as a way to take away the management of the facility.”
Coolidge offered further advice, saying that the digital record-keeping Sheriff Glenn Drake started exploring while he was warden is of great importance and would help take pressure off corrections officers. He also stressed the importance of recidivism programs that help keep formed inmates from reentering the prison system, which helps them, the community and cost of running the facility.
Coolidge also complimented the Potter board on its through and informative meeting minutes and said their decision to work with Cost Management Plus is a “solid move” to help save money at the facility.
During public comment, Dan Cowburn of FreePA took issue with the minutes from previous board meetings, saying they aren’t accurately detailing comments from the public.
“I’d like to know how these an be called accurate minutes. Do you guys not want the public to know what questions we’re asking?” said Cowburn, adding that those questions are then not reported to the newspaper.
“Under the Sunshine Law, for public comment, the group can put down as much or as little as they deem necessary,” said Commissioner Nancy Grupp. “What we keep is business records. What we don’t keep is a meeting transcript. And the paper is usually here, so we aren’t reporting to them.”
Another meeting visitor said if such questions were detailed, more members of the public may be interested in participating in meetings. She also commented that the time of the meetings – every first Friday of the month at noon – don’t allow a lot of people to attend.
Grupp said firstname.lastname@example.org, an email account set up to receive comments and questions from the public hasn’t yet received any. It’s posted on the jail board’s page of Potter County’s website.
Also at the meeting, the board decided to table an agreement with Telemental Health Services, which would provide virtual health services for inmates. Drake said this is something he’s worked on for the past couple of years, but that COVID delayed its implementation. Board members expressed concerns that the services appear to be “pay-as-you-go” instead of a contracted fee.
Grupp said she received a notice that local churches are looking into forming a Pennsylvania Prison Society chapter for Potter County, which would advocate for inmates.
During her report, Milford said the jail currently has 42 inmates with one serving weekends, six on work release and 11 females housed in other counties. She said she’s working with various groups like A Way Out, Narcotics Anonymous and Careerlink to provide groups and services for inmates.
The jail board meets next at noon on Friday, Nov. 5 at the Gunzburger Building, Coudersport. The public can also call in at 814-274-0844; enter pin 114477#.