Pa. county lays off 15 corrections officers, future layoffs possible
Officials said all future layoffs will depend on the county’s financial situation
By Jeff Horvath
LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — Lackawanna County laid off 15 corrections officers in the first of what may be a series of potential layoffs at the county prison and in other departments, officials announced Friday.
In a statement, the county noted the prison population is down significantly from pre-pandemic levels. That’s because the county courts released, moved to house arrest or put on probation many nonviolent offenders who were at or near their minimum sentence to mitigate the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak at the jail.
Officials also cited the pandemic’s adverse impact on county finances. Unlike Scranton, which furloughed about 43 employees during the public health crisis to safeguard the city’s financial future, the county had avoided layoffs to this point in the COVID-19 crisis.
All future layoffs will depend on the county’s financial situation.
“We’re going to do a total assessment as we go forward, but it’s going to be a time-consuming thing,” said county Chief of Staff Brian Jeffers. “It’s going to be department by department to see if in fact there are portions of those departments that could suffer a layoff or not. It depends on how much work we are getting done.”
At the prison, where officials closed four blocks due to the reduced inmate population, Jeffers said the 15 laid-off corrections officers were lowest on the seniority list. They will not continue to receive health benefits, but have the option of paying to extend their insurance coverage through COBRA, a health insurance program available to eligible employees and their dependents.
Jeffers said the county will start recalling the laid-off corrections officers as necessary if the prison population begins to climb.
©2020 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.)