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Berks officials to host town hall on new correctional facility

The Berks County commissioners are looking to inform community members about a plan to build a new jail and hear what they have to say about it.

They will host a town hall meeting Sept. 22 at 5:30 p.m. in the commissioner’s boardroom on the 13th floor of the county services center. Community members will also be able to participate in the meeting virtually. Information to attend virtually will be released the week of the town hall.

Along with the commissioners, representatives from the firm hired to guide the county through the years-long process of designing and constructing a new correctional facility will be on hand. They will educate the public on the need for and value of the proposed project.

Constructing a new jail is something that has been a topic of discussion for the commissioners for the last several years, acknowledging there are significant structural and operational problems at the existing Bern Township facility. The plan was put on hold due to the COVID pandemic and other factors, but was revived in January.

The commissioners hired CGL for about $650,000 to help them design the new facility.

The commissioners have been considering things like how changes in the criminal justice system could impact how many inmates the county will have behind bars in the future; how much direct supervision they want over the inmates; how much space should be devoted to treatment programs; and whether they want greater separation of inmates based on specific classifications.

The county has already begun the process of collecting information to help make those decisions, which will impact the design and cost of the facility. In early May, CGL presented the commissioners with the results of a needs assessment study the company performed.

That assessment showed that county officials have been making strides over the past five years to keep people from ending up behind bars. A CGL representative told the commissioners that many of the data points they examined to complete its first needs assessment in 2018 had dramatically changed for the better.

Based on those changes, the firm now believes the county should build a facility to accommodate 960 beds, representing a reduction of nearly 24% from the previous needs assessment.

Source: Berkshire mont

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