DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — A Midstate consultant has released his final report on the Dauphin County Prison after spending two years working with county and prison officials.
The report includes more than a dozen recommendations.
“This place has a little bit of a dubious reputation,” Dauphin County Director of Criminal Justice John Bey said.
When Bey started his job in February 2023, he hoped to change the prison’s reputation through “accountability, internal affairs, community engagement and transparency.”
He said work had already started, including the report by former Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel.
“I’m looking forward to implementing more of the recommendations,” Bey said.
Dauphin County hired Wetzel’s firm in November 2021 to work with the warden and staff to reduce violence and deaths in the prison and review its operations.
The report found staffing was a major issue. Bey said more than a fifth of positions are open, mainly for correctional officers, but there are people in the pipeline, and raises for current staff have also helped.
“People who are now telling me, hey, director, this is my career, I’m not going anywhere,” Bey said.
Mental health treatment was another recommendation. Bey said the prison’s treatment department now meets daily with Gaudenzia and Dauphin County Drug and Alcohol Services to discuss the most pressing medical and mental health cases.
Holistic safety, another recommendation, is a priority for Bey. The report pushes for an end to an “us vs. them” mentality between staff and inmates and said corrections should “acknowledge that staff and [inmates] share the same goals to remain safe, to be treated with respect, and ultimately to make it home.”
Bey said he plans to bring inmates and correctional officers into conversations about possible improvements.
“Sit down with the inmates, talk to them about their concerns, talk with the block officers about their concerns,” he said.
The report also notes the prison has made a lot of progress in improving conditions — the prison updated the HVAC system, gave inmates access to TV and tablets and offered signing bonuses to new staff. The county can also now pay inmates for work done for the county.
Still, the report and Bey himself emphasizes the long-term goal for the prison.
“It’s an organization that has the respect of the community, the trust of the community, that’s key, that’s number one. And also it’s a place where people want to come and work,” Bey said.
View the full report here.