A central booking area at the Bedford County Correctional Facility is one step closer to reality with the arrival of a trailer where a temporary area can be set up for arraigning inmates, according to discussions at the meeting of the Prison Board Wednesday.

A trailer to house the video equipment, which will be used to communicate with the district jagistrate on duty, has arrived, but the connection has to be more secure than common connections for security reasons, according to Bedford County Commissioner Alan Frederick. The plan is to eventually build a central booking room onto the existing jail, and administrators are trying to secure funding and create plans, including visiting other facilities to find out what would be best here, according to Warden Joseph Eichenlaub.

Staffing issues were discussed, and while there are some open positions at the jail, “Our recruitment efforts are ongoing,” Eichenlaub said. The facility is working on creating its own training program that will allow potential corrections officers to be trained in house, as opposed to sending them to other facilities at a cost to the county.

“Gaining the opportunity to have our own academy, we can now train our own staff,” Eichenlaub said. It could then be used to train staff for other facilities for a fee. Training lasts four weeks, and when fully operational, Eichenlaub said, he hopes to run multiple classes a year, with 15 to 20 students per class.

Some educational opportunities, such as GED and art classes, have resumed, Eichenlaub said, but the jail is still waiting to resume treatment programs.

The facility is still operating under the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines for congregate facilities, Eichenlaub said, and isolation measures are in place when necessary. He said COVID-19 vaccines are offered to both staff and inmates on a regular basis.

“We don’t make it very invasive. We make the offer. Our sign-up sheets are not full,” Eichenlaub added.

The jail houses 153 inmates, 20% of whom are women and 11% are Fulton County inmates.

Looking forward, an event will be hosted at the jail in conjunction with Your Safe Haven in the fall that will allow inmates who so wish to learn about taking responsibility for their actions, and even write a letter of apology to a victim, in applicable cases. Victims are under no obligation to receive or read such letters.

“It provides an opportunity for inmates, or old inmates to come back, to talk about what their actions have cost,” Eichenlaub told the board.

Eichenlaub also praised the new food service vendor, Summit Foods, who he said is providing a balanced diet for inmates while cutting costs for the county by allowing them to pay per meal.

Contact Heather Koontz at hkoontz@bedfordgazette.com; 814-623-1151, ext. 150.

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