PAINT TWP. - For the second time this year visitation at the Clarion County Jail has been suspended.

"We halted visitation when the county closed all buildings to the public," Clarion County Jail Warden Jeff Hornberger said last week.

The county had halted visitation in March when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered a statewide shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the shutdown, the inmates were not able to visit with their families.

In July Hornberger provided details for a video visitation system. That has not been installed however. A contract with GTL has not been executed as of late last week.

Another casualty of the virus is the county's work release program.

If approved by the court qualified inmates may be permitted to work outside of the jail.

Hornberger said the work release program would remain on hold due to the county shutdown. Hornberger said the jail's doctor had recommended not opening the program at this time due to spikes in COVID cases.

"Even the doctor is doing is consultations remotely," Hornberger said.

"We are at a standstill," said jail board member and county commissioner Wayne Brosius.

As of Nov. 12, the jail had 63 inmates, down from a daily population of 75 in October. Hornberger said the county had been able to transfer nine people to a state correctional institution.

Last month the state had notified county jails that inmates with state sentences could not be sent to the state due to an outbreak of COVID in state prisons.

"We have five more inmates waiting to be transferred," said Hornberger. "We are waiting for results of their test for the virus. The state will not accept inmates unless they have been tested for the virus prior to their transfer."

In other business, the prison board approved the purchase of a JLG scissor lift from GM Equipment Corporation at a cost of $11,695. The county and the jail will use the lift. The county and the jail will split the cost.

Hornberger said the lift would allow easy access to overhead lights and fixtures that are beyond the reach of the equipment currently available. The county will use the lift in the nearly former Sorce building where it will also be stored.

The motion passed 4-1 with Sheriff Rex Munsee opposing the motion. Munsee said he was in favor of buying the scissor lift but objected because the purchase was made prior to the board taking action.

"We should have been notified prior to this meeting. It makes my vote worthless," he said.