Inmates at the Fayette County jail will have fewer programs to choose from on cable television because they were squabbling over music channels.
Warden Brian Miller told the prison board on Wednesday that inmates currently can choose from channels 2 through 99 on any of nine televisions in common areas of the jail.
Miller said the wide variety of available programming results in arguments and fights among inmates. In particular, he said, inmates fight over three unspecified music stations that are included in the package of channels available for $89 per month through Atlantic Broadband.
To quell the fighting, Miller said he plans to switch the jail’s programming to a lower tier of service that offers just 13 channels at a cost of $55 per month. Miller did not need the board’s permission to make the change but he said he wanted to consult with members before taking action.
Pointing out that cable TV is a luxury, and not a right, board members were in agreement with the reduction in service.
No tax dollars are used to pay for the inmates’ cable television. Miller said money for the monthly subscription fee is drawn off an inmate account. The inmate account is funded through interest that is earned on money that is placed into each individual inmates’ own prison accounts that are used for expenses such as commissary items.
In an unrelated matter, board members said they were surprised to learn that a Pittsburgh architectural firm has for the past year been exploring options for a new county jail.
Eric A. Tupper, business development manager for Pieper O’Brien Herr Architects, told the board he wanted to present his findings next month. He said the firm has looked at options for a new prison at the existing site on Court Street and at the former U.S. Army Reserve Center on McClellandtown Road, near Uniontown Hospital.
Tupper said the firm has looked at a number of funding options, including the possibility of public-private partnerships or construction of a facility large enough to generate revenue by renting cell space to neighboring counties.
Tupper’s presentation was cut short when several board members said no one had authorized the firm to study the county’s options.
“I’m not sure what we’re doing here, and who authorized this,” said Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky, a prison board member. “I’m just disappointed that we weren’t informed of any of this.”
Tupper said he met with Miller three times over the past year, at no cost to the county, in regard to studying possible solutions to overcrowding at the jail. Fayette frequently pays to house inmates in Westmoreland and Greene counties to alleviate overcrowding at its facility.
Miller reported that as of yesterday, the county was paying Greene County to house 17 Fayette inmates. Another 286 inmates are incarcerated in Fayette’s lockup, he said.
Tupper, who said his firm has built a number of prisons nationwide, said it’s uncertain whether he will return next month with additional information for the board.