COAL TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Construction officially broke ground on April 28 at the new Northumberland County Prison in Coal Township, more than two years after a fire ruined the prison’s Sunbury location.
During those two years, the county’s correctional system headquarters has been temporarily located in a wing at the State Correctional Institution in Coal Township. Inmates have also been housed at the State Correctional Institution as well as in other county facilities across the state. In January, The Daily Item, a local news source, reported that the county had already paid at least $7.5 million (an average $2 million more per year) in boarding costs to other prison facilities. The county is currently spending an average of $68 per inmate per day in boarding fees, compared to the $55 per inmate per day it was spending a month before the fire.
To help ease those costs, the new county prison is being built in the former Northwestern Academy, a facility that once held juvenile offenders until closing in June 2016. The facility will undergo renovations and additions to turn it into the new prison. Once completed, the approximately 300-bed prison will consist of at least a dozen buildings spread across 165 acres.
County commissioners originally planned to build the new prison in Sunbury at the former Celotex manufacturing site, but instead decided to purchase the former Northwestern Academy (about double the size of the Celotex site) for $6.5 million. This gave the county the money it needed to renovate and still undercut the budget for the old project by at least $10 million, Northumberland County Commissioner Rich Shoch told WNEP, a local news station. While the new prison will be farther away from the courthouse than the previous prison facility, officials told WNEP that additional staffing and vehicles would help ease transfers.
Construction is expected to last about a year, with the prison scheduled to open in June 2018. The project is projected to cost about $20.1 million, not including the $6.5 million purchase of Northwestern or the $4.6 million purchase and development of the former Celotex site, according to The Daily Item.