Hundreds Tour Prison Life in County Government's First Fair - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather and Events

Hundreds Tour Prison Life in County Government's First Fair

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Families tour Erie County Prison Families tour Erie County Prison
 Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper and her team of directors hosted a fair and open house at the Erie County Prison on Saturday, the first of its kind.
   
Colorful balloons decorated the prison and its heavy, metal doors were open to the public. Hundreds of people took advantage of the opportunity to see the inner-workings of prison life.

"When we talk about the public coming in here, a lot of people come up to me and ask, 'What's it like in there?' Now people get to see with their own eyes what it's like. We're very proud of this place," said Kevin Sutter, warden of Erie County Prison.

Dahlkemper and team organized the fair to show people where their taxes are going, with display boards explaining the different responsibilities of each director.

"A lot of people don't understand what county government does, where their tax dollars go to. We thought having this Director's Fair, where all of our departments are here and have displays, would help people understand that," Dahlkemper said.

She got the idea after realizing that April is National County Government Month, and that it largely goes uncelebrated.

"We also thought it would be good to have one of our facilities open to the public and really tell the public what we do as a county government," she said.

The prison open house and tours was a learning experience for curious kids and adults alike.

"It's cleaner than what I thought it was going to be. I think it's a nice facility, not that I would want to be here," said Brooke Crocker, visiting the prison with her two sons. "It's very organized, very professional, and I think they do a good job here," she said.

"It's not as bad as I thought. They get food delivered to the cells and stuff, but it's prison," said Ryan Nuara, another Erie visitor.

About $25 million - or 27 percent - of taxpayer dollars go towards the Erie County Prison and corrections.  

And some kids got an important takeaway.

"I would say, do not go to jail," said 8-year-old Eric Neavins of Erie, there with mom, Brooke.

It was an experience also enjoyed by the staff at the prison.

"When they were coming in, they didn't really know what to expect. But they'd see it  on their way out, they'd talk to me about it. It was really cool," Sutter said.

As of Saturday morning, the Erie County Prison housed 585 inmates.


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