Is Privatization the Answer to Lackawanna County Prison Problems?

SCRANTON -- Members of the Lackawanna County Prison Board met Wednesday for the first time since seven current and former corrections officers were arrested, facing allegations of sexual assault against female inmates.

The prison board is made up of the county commissioners, county officials, judges, the sheriff, and the district attorney. This was their first time together since the state attorney general filed charges against seven corrections officers and detailed the extent of his investigation into alleged sexual assaults at the prison.

One week ago, seven current and former Lackawanna county corrections officers were cuffed and charged with various sexual abuse crimes. All stand accused of assaulting female inmates at the Lackawanna County Prison.

At the county's prison board meeting, Warden Tim Betti said he could not comment on the arrests since the state attorney general's investigation into sexual abuse the prison is still open.

But Betti detailed the state-mandated procedures in place to cut down on sexual assaults behind bars and said he's open to improving them.

"My ears are open, and I want to make the place a better and safer place than it is," Betti said.

The meeting was the first chance for members of the public to talk to the prison board about the allegations.

"There are good guards there, and I feel really, really bad for the ones that are being out in public and somebody makes something derogatory out of it. I'll be the first one to say, let the bad ones go and keep the good. There's more good there than bad," said Dave Davidson of Lake Sheridan.

"Over the past 25 years, the county prison has given the county one scandal after another and collectively these scandals have cost the taxpayers of this county many millions of dollars," said Mike Cantanzaro of Childs.

Commissioner Laureen Cummings said she is looking in to privatizing the county prison and says several private prison companies have already called the county showing interest.

"I'm really glad that the media, and the AG, and the public finally seem to all agree that it's a problem. It's a problem. I think it's time. It's high time that we privatize the prison," Commissioner Cummings said.

Commissioner Cummings says one of those interested private companies plans to tour the prison Thursday.

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