The lack of staffing in the prison, Sheriff, and District Attorney's Offices is a significant security issue, putting our community at risk. The recent escape of a convicted murderer serving a life sentence was the second escape from our county prison in less than six months.
Earlier this year, the County hired a consultant to make recommendations to improve the prison, yet the details have not been made public. The number of unfilled positions in the County prison is at an all-time high. As of the publishing date of this article, there are 301 positions at the prison with 76 vacancies.
Two prisoner escapes in less than six months is not solely a prison issue – It’s a broader issue of mismanagement and institutional failure.
The staff of Deputies in the Sheriff’s Office who protect our courts is down by two-thirds, and the Canine Unit is down from eight to two active K-9 Officers – Dogs who search for people, including fugitives and corpses, drugs, and bombs. The current administration disbanded the Warrant Department, which served evictions and warrants, Protection from Abuse Orders, and Child/ Spousal Support Orders. These are critical functions. Without prompt execution by a dedicated department, residents are at risk.
In addition, the District Attorney's Office has also incurred unprecedented turnover, losing roughly 40 attorneys over the last four years. It continues to be significantly understaffed, with difficulty hiring from within our County. The District Attorney's Office is funded for 40 attorneys, mainly through taxes. Roughly 20 attorneys are assigned to courtrooms, three to four attorneys to special victims, and two to juveniles, which means there are only seven attorneys to handle all the district courts, miscellaneous courts, and other office duties (warrants and court orders). Retention issues compromise the development of our Assistant District Attorneys, minimizing talent development for the future.
It's time to look deeper into the root causes of the problems with our prison, Sheriff, and District Attorney's offices; our County's safety is at stake!
Despite the deterioration of these offices, Chester County Officials are telling us that everything is fine. The Courthouse is safe, the prison is secure, crime is down, and we need to trust them because they have it all under control.
How can we trust these elected officials to be transparent about security issues when we now see first-hand that things are not okay?
We've been headed in the wrong direction for the past four years. Our County has been fraying at the seams. Two prison escapes, and many other adverse events, are symptomatic of institutional failures. We have an opportunity to change course in November.
A solution is at hand. We have outstanding 2023 candidates for District Attorney, in Ryan Hyde, and for Sheriff, in Roy Kofroth. When you elect them, they will protect our quality-of-life and restore good governance for Chester County.