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The county commissioners entered into an agreement Thursday to provide cost-free tablets to inmates at the county prison as a way to help them prepare to re-enter society.
The tablets, which come at no cost to taxpayers or the inmates, will be donated by GTL, who is the existing provider for Lebanon County Prison and the largest provider of inmate telephone services in the nation.
“GTL is a company that we’ve been contracting with for a very long time for inmate phone services,” said Jamie Wolgemuth, chief clerk/county administrator. “(This) provides them the ability to call out, provides for charges that are incurred by them and provides for a commission that the facility gets and, as GTL has done for ours and other facilities, they offer back certain services and technology and so on as a partner in this.”
Noting that she was excited for this opportunity, Prison Warden Tina Litz said the tablets will provide inmates access to an education suite that will permit them to learn while they are in the prison system.
“There are several models of educational learning for the inmate population, and they also contain the ability for contact with the community, which is important especially with COVID,” Litz said. “And they also have different behavioral settings for us to utilize to help with the inmate population.”
Litz added that the tablets contain educational components that will enhance inmate learning, which has been hindered during the recent pandemic, while also lessening the stigma within the prison system targeted at those individuals who want to improve their lives.
“As you know, inmates are too embarrassed, it’s not cool to be in school or to further your education or to admit when you need help with some things,” Litz said. “These tablets provide confidentiality for the inmates if they want to better enhance themselves. It also contains a section for job skills and personal finance, which as a county correctional facility, as they enter back into the community, is a highlight for us to be able to offer them ways to better themselves.”
The tablets also provide access to religion and spirituality, reading and literacy and legal components as well as informational videos that the inmates can access, according to Litz. Another service will allow them to video conference with family members and loved ones, which is critical during the ongoing pandemic. Video conferencing, Litz added, will be monitored by staff for safety reasons.
Litz said a still-to-be-determined amount of tablets will be distributed for each cell block and that inmates will have access to the tablets during their block-out period.
In other action items, the commissioners agreed to:
- Provide $3,250 from the county’s hotel grant tax fund to assist with costs associated with Historic Old Annville Day, which will be held on Saturday, Aug. 14. It was noted that about 8,000 people descend upon Annville during this annual event. The funding request was made to: help pay for billboard advertising; hire live bands; pay for music licensing fees, and cover costs associated with traffic control. The payment covers just under half of the event’s $8,000 budget.
- Enter into an agreement with Lebanon County Christian Ministries at a fee of $30 per transaction to deliver payments for utility assistance under the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) for renters participating in ERAP. In another action related to ERAP, two former employees of Community Action Partnership, the local agency administering the ERAP program, were hired at a rate of $33 per hire at a maximum of 25 hours per week to assist with the processing of rental assistance applications.
- Sign an agreement with Forever Media at an annual compensation rate of $7,000 to allow the communications company to erect a radio tower on land owned by the county on a mountaintop in East Hanover Township. The company and the county agreed to split the cost of taxes due for having the tower on land that already contains a 911 emergency communications tower, which is owned by the county.
- The commissioners also were presented an update on the employee’s retirement and pension funds for the first quarter of 2021 and were given a presentation by Audrie Louise Risser, Lebanon County Dairy Princess, who encouraged consumers to buy local by looking for the plant code that begins with the number “42” on dairy products. That number signified that products are processed in Pennsylvania and sourced predominantly from Pennsylvania dairy farms.
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