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A tug-of-war over Lancaster County Prison's commissary fund will be determined by a new competitive process, the county commissioners decided last week.

Three programs are currently funded through the commissary and are guaranteed money until the end of the year.

After that, the programs will have to compete with several others that are requesting a share of the $864,228 fund.

The commissary fund comes from the prisoners themselves when they pay for toiletries and other items while in jail.

Prison officials told county commissioners last week they wanted to have agencies go through a request for proposal process that would create "more efficiencies" in the programs that directly help inmates.

They said the process would “reduce some duplication of services.’’

Deputy Warden Joe Shiffer said the prison wanted to concentrate on five specific areas that would be paid for out of the fund — evidenced-based therapy; mental health services; career training, and post-release issues, including housing; the children of incarcerated parents; and sexual assault counseling and prevention.

Currently, the fund pays $100,000 per year to RMO-Re-entry Management, an organization that helps prisoners with housing and employment.

A program called New Beginnings has been getting $80,000 annually to help female inmates with career counseling and community resources.

A new program, which gets $66,000 and is run by Compass Mark, provides a family services advocate to look after the needs of children whose parents were incarcerated.

Other programs want funding

Providers of several other programs that have supplied services to inmates on a volunteer basis, including the YWCA and Mental Health America, have proposed getting paid out of the commissary fund, too, officials said.

“We need a more orderly budget process,” said County Commissioner Josh Parsons, who noted money was taken out of the commissary fund in previous years "in a piecemeal fashion.’’

Warden Cheryl Steberger said money was taken out of the fund over the years to pay for the prison's roof repairs and to replace bunks with a type that would help reduce prison suicides from hanging.

A declining prison population has also depleted the fund because there are fewer prisoners buying at the commissary, officials said.

At the beginning of May, the fund’s year-to-date receipts were 349,963, while the year-to-date expenditures were $367,262.

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