Clarion County Jail looking for a transport vehicle

One of the Clarion County Jail’s two transport vehicles is no longer serviceable.

Warden Jeff Hornberger told the Jail Inspection Board that the 2009 Dodge Charger used to transport prisoners failed to pass inspection.

“The frame is rusted and it would cost over $2,000 for repairs and there is no guarantee how long those repairs would hold,” said Hornberger, who has decommissioned the vehicle.

He said the two vehicles are needed to take prisoners to medical or other appointments, many of which are in Pittsburgh.

“It is crucial that we have a reliable vehicle,” he said.

The remaining vehicle is a 2019 Ford Escape. Hornberger pointed out that the transport vehicle must have a cage that separates the passengers from the driver.

Hornberger asked the board for permission to seek bids for a lease vehicle.

“The last one we had was on a three-year lease before we purchased it,” he said. “We only put 5,000 to 8,000 miles a year on the vehicle.”

Sheriff Sean Zerfoss, a member of the jail board, said his department has an older van he obtained from Children and Youth Services, and he offered the use of the van on a temporary basis.

Zerfoss said the sheriff’s office needs the van for prisoner transports, especially on court days, and also to transport inmates to state prisons.

District attorney Drew Welsh said it might not be possible to get a vehicle in a timely fashion.

It was suggested that one of the regular sheriff’s department cars could be used. Zerfoss said those cars are equipped with emergency red and blue lights and couldn’t be used for transport purposes.

He said his department was caught in a similar situation last year when a car broke down in Georgia while making a prisoner transport and two deputies were stuck in Georgia.

“I don’t want to be in that position again,” he said.

Hornberger was granted approval to seek bids for a vehicle. County commissioners would need to approve any lease or purchase.

Hornberger reported an increase in commitments at the jail.

“We had 50 commitments and only 33 releases (in January). I like it to be equal,” he said.

The average daily prisoner population in January was 64 inmates.