Northumberland County Prison Puts Cell Walls on Former Academy Site

COAL TOWNSHIP, Pa. — In January of 2015, a fire ravaged Pennsylvania’s 139-year-old Northumberland County Jail in the city of Sunbury. Now, nearly three years later, cranes hovered over the construction site of a new Northumberland County Prison and have lowered cell walls into place.

Located in the former Northwestern Academy site in Coal Township, (a one-time correctional high school), the county jail will now be called the Northumberland County South Campus. County commissioners said the acquisition and retrofit of the school will save state taxpayers an estimated $15 million. In total, the project, which is scheduled to open in June 2018, cost $29 million.

At its present pace, administrators are confident that the new facility will have its roof in place prior to the first snowfall of the year. Thereafter, crew will be able to build out the interiors and proceed with other aspects of the renovation. To meet this goal, at least eight cells will need to be placed each day until the beginning of December.

“If we’re blessed with the weather we have been blessed with, maybe we will be under roof by the end of the year,” County Commissioner Sam Schiccatano told the prison board members, as reported by the Daily Item, a local news service.

At present, the project is considered to be on time and on budget.

The commissioner also shared with prison board members that a lease agreement with Norristown, Pa.-based Gaudenzia Inc., a treatment program for people affected by drug and alcohol dependency, is underway to establish a detoxification and rehabilitation program at the site. To serve this end, the county has permitted the treatment center to retrofit one of the on-campus buildings to use during the negotiation.

The former Northwestern Academy facilities currently include a maximum-security unit, two intermediate-security buildings (that house 128 each) and a 48-bed dormitory. There are also a pair of life-skill dorms for women, an administration building, barracks, a workshop and sundry classrooms. Once renovated, the new Northumberland County Prison site will have a 305-inmate capacity. The county prison’s current population is only slightly more than 200.