Centre County prison heating system functioning normally, despite complaint

The Centre County Board of Commissioners received an email on Monday informing them of a potential heating issue at the Centre County Correctional Facility, but according to acting Warden Denise Elbell the heating system at the facility is functioning normally.

Janet Irons, co-convener of the Centre County chapter of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, said society members visit inmates regularly and during recent conversations they were told that the inmates were cold, which prompted the email to the board.

After receiving the email, Commissioner Michael Pipe said he spoke with county maintenance Superintendent Brad Taylor and the system was checked.

Taylor controls the geothermal system from a computer program in his office and after receiving the information from Pipe he said he immediately checked the system and there were no issues. The computer program allows Taylor to look back at temperature readings and after reviewing past data, Taylor said the heat system has been and is working “perfectly.”

“There’s no issue with the heat,” Taylor said. “All of the pumps are functioning as they should and I haven’t received any complaints from the staff.”

Considering the inmates alleged complaints, the county increased the heat by two degrees on Monday, and according to Taylor the system data has reflected the change.

Elbell said the current county inmate uniform is short-sleeve shirts and long pants, but since the email they have ordered long-sleeve shirts and will make them available to the inmates.

“We take the safety and comfort of the inmates very seriously,” Elbell said. “We are sensitive to their needs and we have taken the necessary steps to handle the issue.”

Pipe said the Prison Board met on Thursday morning and it had not received any complaints this week. He added that the inmates have a detailed and in-depth grievance process, which any inmate can access at any time. The process gives the inmates a forum to voice any concerns or issues and any grievance filed is addressed immediately, Pipe said.

“Both commissioner Pipe and the administration of the jail have been very responsive to our concerns, as well as those of other Centre County citizens,” Irons said. “I appreciate their efforts to make the situation right.”