BERN TWP., Pa. – Berks County commissioners are taking steps to return to their pre-pandemic "to-do list" when it comes to some big issues, like a replacement facility for the current county jail in Bern Township.

"We're evaluating the needs in the criminal justice system for a new corrections facility," said Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt. "They will be studying population trends, demographics, rate of criminal activity."

County commissioners voted to bring on national corrections planning and design firm CGL Companies to help determine the county's needs when it comes to a new jail.

"We're not building the largest jail ever constructed," Barnhardt said. "We are building a jail that will be right-sized for the community, which will last 30 to 50 years."

The county estimates it will be a four-year project. Commissioners initially brought on the jail consulting firm in 2018 to start the study, but all that data is rendered near-useless as the pandemic has changed so much.

The county says the jail remains in need of replacement.

"They don't meet present standards for incarceration," Barnhardt said. "It's also hazardous to the inmates and our corrections officers who have to work in that environment."

The cost to bring on the firm to help get the project going is a little over half a million dollars.

County commissioners say no decisions have been made, and they are looking for more feedback from the public.

"There are some real interesting designs out there being undertaken by counties like us," Barnhardt said. "We want to make sure we have a real state-of-the-art facility."

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