HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Dauphin County commissioners are bringing in a big name to continue prison reform efforts. The county announced former Pa. Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel will serve as a special advisor to the prison board.
Fresh off his last job overseeing the state prison system, Wetzel will now focus his attention squarely on Dauphin County.
“We want people to leave prison better than they came in, less likely to commit a crime and get back and ultimately be restored to the community. We can do that here,” Wetzel said.
The commissioners announced Wednesday that the county has contracted Wetzel to be a special advisor, tasked with doing a comprehensive review of prison operations and overseeing the recruitment and hiring process for a new director of corrections.
“We’re looking to make things better and we believe that he is the right individual at the right time to help us move forward at the Dauphin County Prison,” Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries said.
Pries says they want to build on what they’ve already changed, like the way they deal with people who have issues with drug addiction or mental health.
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“They shouldn’t be in a prison environment. We can get them help outside of the prison,” Pries said. “We set up a diversion process where we evaluate them when they first come in and if they do have these issues we move them outside of the prison.”
Other improvements at the dauphin county prison include body cameras for officers, tablets for inmates to check out, increased security measures, and new search and operating policies.
“In this room, it doesn’t matter with a D and R behind your name, right? The folks here are focused on improving the criminal justice system,” Wetzel said. That’s the kind of environment I’m looking forward to working in.”
Wetzel will start his top to bottom review at the prison first thing Thursday morning. The contract is for 18 months at a cost not to exceed $175,000.