Clarion County jail board again rejects work release

The Clarion County Jail Inspection Board on Thursday again voted against the reopening of the county’s work release program due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The vote was unanimous.

Clarion County Jail Warden Jeff Hornberger said the facility’s doctor, whom he described as “COVID cautious,” did not recommend restarting the program.

Hornberger said the problem is placing the returning inmates into isolation until they are cleared of possible infection. In August, the jail had an average daily population of 65 inmates.

Only one inmate is currently eligible for work release, according to the warden. However, an additional five will be eligible once they report to jail. Those five were sentenced Wednesday during Plea and Sentencing Court.

Several of the inmates eligible for work release have filed petitions with the court to be placed on home arrest instead of time in the jail, according to Clarion County District Attorney Drew Welsh.

Hornberger said the influx of new inmates is causing some problems for the COVID-19 isolation program.

When the population was lower, Hornberger said, there was room to isolate the inmates.

“We are now using a secondary block for isolation,” he said.

New inmates must be placed in isolation for 14 days and not display virus symptoms before they are placed in the general jail population, according to the warden.

Hornberger said the jail is doing the best it can “with the resources we have,” and that there has been a problem obtaining COVID-19 testing kits. The jail is trying to stockpile more of them.

He said the state prison system requires COVID-19 testing before accepting new inmates. Hornberger has about 10 inmates waiting to be transferred to the state system.

In other business:

– The warden reported failures with the air conditioning system.

He said the unit for the jail lobby is being repaired, and the unit for the kitchen is out of order due to a failure with a computer circuit board.

– The meeting was the last for Clarion County Treasurer Tom McConnell, who resigned his position effective Friday.