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Call for Blair County Prison Counselors

A Statewide Organization is calling upon Blair County to hire more Prison Counselors. We spoke with Representatives from the Prison about the difficulties they have had with hiring new staff members.

The Warden at the Blair County Prison tells us that there are currently 384 inmates at the prison, which only has 355 beds. She says they are overcrowded, and currently only have one Counselor on staff to work with the nearly 400 inmates. Abbie Tate, Blair County Prison Warden saying: “Our population is definitely climbing, so the caseloads are large, the pay is not great, the environment is not great, it definitely takes a special person to work in corrections and it definitely takes a special person to work in this building.”

Last week, Representatives from the PA Prison Society, which promotes humane conditions for inmates across the State, stood in front of the Blair County Prison Board to ask them to hire more Counselors. According to Blair County Prison Warden and former Counselor Abbie Tate, the Prison Counselor position, also referred to as Case Manager, acts as the liaison for the inmates to the outside world. They are the direct contact for people to reach the inmates, and also help with things like preparing a release plan.

Currently, the prison only has one Case Manager, Darlene Wilt, who says having more Counselors would help the inmates a lot. Tate adding: “It put a lot of pressure on her, she feels that pressure from the inmates, they’re not understanding why we can’t get people in here, they just know that they need these things, and the needs aren’t being met right now.” Tate says it’s been difficult for them to hire new Case Managers to help due to many reasons, including the low salary and tough working conditions.

David Kessling is one of the Blair County Commissioners and also the Chairman of the Prison Board. He says that as someone who has spent the majority of his life administering prisons, he knows how important people like Wilt are, and says they are looking at all options to try and make these jobs more appealing. Kessling saying: “The challenge is also with the old prison, we have very limited space, it makes it very challenging not only for the Counselors who would take this position but everybody working there as far as medical staff and so on and so forth so it’s just not optimal conditions, I think that if we’re able to address that, that may even help us fill positions.”

Tate says that the County isn’t able just to offer a higher salary for the Case Manager position, since it’s a union job. She says that she hopes there will be an increase in the salary when that contract expires later this year.

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