Clarion County jail population falls for fourth straight year

Jeff Hornberger

CLARION- The Clarion County Jail Board was told Thursday that the inmate population at the jail declined for the fourth straight year in 2018.

In 2018, the average daily population stood at 101, a decrease of seven inmates per day from 2017 and down by 12 inmates from 2016. In 2014, the jail had an average daily population of 99.9 inmates.

That is a savings for the county as the average daily cost of housing an inmate is now $65.41, about a $1 increase from the previous year.

Jail warden Jeff Hornberger credited the court system for the reduction in the inmate population as he presented his report at Thursday’s jail board meeting.

“The courts and probation have done a really good job on alternative programs like behavioral court and treatment court. They are really working with us to keep our numbers low,” Hornberger said in his annual report. “Clarion County is one of the few counties where the jail population has gone down.”

Hornberger said the average daily inmate population for December was about 98.

“That is the first time in a long time that it has been below 100,” he said.

The jail has a maximum capacity of 129 inmates, and Hornberger said there were times in the past year that the inmate population reached 120. Plastic “sleds” or “boats” are employed when the jail exceeds capacity.

Hornberger said he has employed the sleds when the male to female population hasn’t worked out.

Hornberger noted the jail had 687 people committed and 687 released last year, the first time the numbers have been the same in one year.

Of those inmates, 520 were male and 167 were female. The jail didn’t house anyone under 18 in 2018, and the largest demographic age group, 36 percent, admitted to the jail was 25-34 years old.

Seven percent of the inmates were over 55 years old.

The top four reasons for incarceration were manufacture, possession or intent to manufacture a controlled substance, 58; DUI, 52; criminal conspiracy, a charge usually relating to a drug arrest, 38; and simple assault, 37.

The jail ended 2018 slightly below the annual budget of $2,530,894. A major cost is food for the inmates.

County Sheriff Rex Munsee said he hears complaints about the food served in jails everywhere but in Clarion. Munsee said the only complaint he had heard about the food is that the inmates would like more of it.

The Jail Inspection Board voted to change the provider for pest control providers. The new provider will be Pest Management, a Clarion-based company.

Pest Management will provide the service for $1,656 a year, a savings of about $500.

Clarion County Commissioner Wayne Brosius was re-elected jail board chairman and District Attorney Mark Aaron was elected vice chairman at Thursday’s meeting.

The jail board will meet again at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, at the county administration building.