Corrections officers to commissioners: Don't privatize jail

Building new jail would cost Berks about $158M

READING, Pa. - The possibility of the Berks County Jail being privatized is still very much on the table.

The Berks County commissioners have voiced their concerns about the conditions at the jail in Bern Township and are looking to make changes. The oldest portion of the jail was built in 1933.

"I look at this as a four-quarter effort, and as a four-quarter effort, and we're very early in the first quarter," said Commissioner Christian Leinbach.

Corrections officers and their union representative, Ivan Dorta, addressed issues of understaffing and dangerous conditions at the jail. Dorta said privatizing will put profit before people.

"We have over 400,000 residents of Berks County that have the right to know," said Dorta.

The union did propose a committee of officers, administrators, and prison board members to discuss a new jail without arbitration. Leinbach said building a new jail would cost about $158 million, which he calls unacceptable.

"Currently, it would be the largest expense ever incurred by the county of Berks," said Leinbach.

The county commissioners said that, while they're nowhere near making a decision, privatization needs to at least be an option for the sake of the taxpayers.

Meanwhile, for the teamsters, they said it shouldn't even be on the table.

"It's bad for all of us, for them as commissioners, and... for the taxpayers at hand," said Dorta.

Officials said it could take a long as four years to decide the jail's future.

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