Lancaster County Prison launched a data-based program in 2016 to improve its efficiency, transparency and accountability.
Two years later, PrisonStat is being recognized for reforms that have resulted in a decrease in areas that were a problem at the jail, such as inmate suicides.
Two inmates killed themselves at the 625 E. King St. jail in 2015. Since March of that year, no inmate has committed suicide.
Use-of-force incidents at the facility decreased by nearly 9 percent — 1,046 to 953 — from 2015 to 2017, as did inmate misconducts.
The program is being recognized by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, which recently announced the prison is receiving the 2018 Criminal Justice System Best Practices Award. The award will be presented later in the spring.
"I was ecstatic when I heard about it," Lancaster County Prison Warden Cheryl Steberger said, adding that it affirms the hard work her staff has been putting in.
Steberger and Lancaster County Commissioner Josh Parsons began the program as a way to analyze the prison's performance by reviewing several key metrics including inmate misconducts, use of force, inmate services and suicides, and discussing the data at public meetings.
(The percentage of decrease in the use of force metrics on page 8 of the entry form is a typo and should read 8.89 percent.)
Steberger said the prison will continue its efforts to improve the system and is now looking at addressing a recent increase in assaults on staff.
In 2016 there were 33 inmate-related employee injuries, eight of which were caused by inmates receiving mental health treatment. That number increased to 74 in 2017, and 27 were related to inmates receiving mental health treatment.
According to the prison's self-nomination for the award, in 2016 there were no options to deal with seriously mentally ill inmates. PrisonStat reviews indicated many of the use of force incidents and employee injuries "stemmed from mentally ill inmates."
To address the issue, the county signed an agreement with Lancaster General Hospital to treat seriously mentally ill inmates at the hospital's Behavioral Health Unit. The prison also created a mental illness and substance abuse team.
The results, according to the nomination document, have been a reduction in assaults by seriously mentally ill inmates and a low recidivism rate for mental illness and substance abuse team inmates.
Steberger said that some inmate-related injuries are not necessarily caused by the inmate, rather an employee may be injured incidentally during an interaction with an inmate.
PrisonStat data shows there were 46 assaults on staff by inmates in 2017. Total employee injuries increased from 69 in 2016 to 144 in 2017.
Parsons said it is nice to see the organization being recognized for its hard work, but added that there is always more to be done.
Other key metrics used by PrisonStat include employee injuries, overtime, staffing trends, staff training and video conference use and public defender visits.
The next PrisonStat meeting is at 1:30 p.m. April 23 in suite 701 of the county building at 150 N. Queen St.