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Minimum Security Prison In Hazleton?

Minimum Security Prison In Hazleton? - Wednesday, October 8, 2008 at 11:47PM EST

? Reported by: Joe Holden
Wednesday, Oct 8, 2008 @ 11:47pm EST

HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY- The Altamont Building sits smack in the center of Hazleton. Churches and an old school surround it. The place is a block from a public library. Sources tell Eyewitness News a program in the building serving convicts will soon expand. Presently two floors are dedicated to reacquainting "lower risk" inmates with society. Few people know about the operation.

"I knew that the building was there, but I didn't know what it was being used for exactly. It's news to me," Amanda Wagner said walking by the several story Broad Street high rise. The I-Team tried tracking down somebody from Minsec, otherwise called "minimum security." We had no luck. And apparently few people in Hazleton City government, from the mayor to members of city council, know what goes on in the building.

Folks at the public library were on edge about information as many as 200 early-release prisoners could soon be flowing in and out of the Altamont. "I guess if they've been rehabilitated, then perhaps it's okay. I don't know if I would feel entirely comfortable with it," Adrienne Falkena said.

Police department sources told us they're unaware of any problems with the current Minsec operation. Mayor Lou Barletta also said there were no problems with the place.

Ed Pane, president and CEO of Serento Garden applauds Minsec. Pane's office is one floor below the rehabilitation program. "The individuals here are either in drug or alcohol rehab or in a halfway house, or a pre-release program. It's very well-structured. Probably one of the best programs of its type in the state," Pane said.

Pane said he never sees anybody connected with Minsec's program. That's likely because residents apparently use an alleyway back door to come and go. "I spoke to the police chief and said what kind of business are you getting out of this place? And functionally, the answer is none," Pane said.

The I-Team tried speaking to Hazleton Police Chief Robert Ferdinand regarding concerns brought to the attention of Eyewitness News. The chief never got back to us.

"They have probably put 1,000 people through this building and no one even knows about it. It's that tightly well managed," Pane said.

Minsec had the following description of how it obtains inmates for its program on its website:
"We screen client files selecting only those we feel would benefit from our programs and those we feel would not be a danger to the community or staff."

No one in the city could provide us with a date for Minsec's planned expansion. The I-Team attempted to leave a message at the site. No one would take our information.


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