Meadville Tribune

Local News

March 28, 2014

Crawford County jail starts child-visitation program

SAEGERTOWN — A new child-visitation program, possibly one of the first of its kind for county jails in Pennsylvania, is under way at the Crawford County jail.

The program allows inmates to visit with their children in a child-friendly area that encompasses the facility’s former library and will house one inmate and family at a time while they are under surveillance from an adjoining room.

The room is outfitted with adult and chldren’s furnuture as well as a play area with toys, books and a television.

Some items were donated while others were purchased with commissary funds, according to Jail Warden Tim Lewis.

“This is the future,” said Deputy Warden Kenneth Saulsbery, who spoke at a brief press conference with other local officials in the visitation room Thursday morning. “We might be one of the pilot counties to initiate a program like this.”

Two visitations have already taken place, according to jail officials.

Lewis said visitation will involve one inmate and family for one hour at a time and will be a useful tool in promoting healthy family relationships as well as teaching parenting skills to inmates who qualify for such assistance.

Visitation will be a privilege for inmates who have a record of good behavior and who attend all their required rehabilitative programs — such as drug and alcohol or mental health counseling.

“Any semblance of normality helps kids,” agreed President Judge Anthony Vardaro of Crawford County Court of Common Pleas.

Vardaro coordinated a committee of local court and jail staff to look into establishing the child visitation program after learning about such programs at a judicial conference several months ago.

He thanked the jail staff and county officials present for making the program and facility atmosphere possible.

Saulsbery mentioned possibly reaching out to Allegheny College, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and even inmates themselves to paint murals or add child-themed artwork to the room’s interior.

The facility may also be expanded with the addition of toys and other leisure materials, he said.

Anyone interested in donating or purchasing items for the visitation room may contact Lewis or Saulsbery at the Crawford County jail, 2100 Independence Drive, Saegertown, Pa.; or at 763-1101.

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