Born out of necessity, the new Northumberland County Prison is ready for occupancy.
That fact was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, though we always wonder just what we’re celebrating when it’s about incarceration. But it is an impressive looking and, we trust, secure, efficient and effective public building.
It wasn’t cheap getting to this point, but the county had little choice when the former prison in Sunbury was all but destroyed by fire in January 2015.
Any price tag hitting double-digit millions — $22.8 million — is bound to produce political chatter, and this was certainly the case with the prison. But the county can consider itself fortunate to have a state correctional facility just 15 miles away from the original Sunbury jail, where a majority of prisoners have been incarcerated in the interim. It was costly to “rent” the state prison space, but could have been even more so if not for that proximity — and abundant cooperation from the state Department of Corrections.
When inmates are moved to the new Northumberland County South Campus facility later this month, one difficult chapter in county history will end and a new one will begin.
We view it as a case of “things happen for a reason.” Everyone knew the old jail, though upgrades had been made, was a black eye for the county. Only so much can be done to make a century-old building adequate for living, even as a jail. But few politicians were going to have the wherewithal to propose spending millions on a new prison — until there was no choice.
With that, Northumberland County has its state-of-the art new prison, and taxpayers will be reminded of that for years to come in footing the bill. Knowing, however, that we can incarcerate criminals in humane conditions and with the latest in security, and with a newly refocused eye toward rehabilitation, this is indeed a celebratory moment in Northumberland County history.