New Mercyhurst study supports need for additional prison guards


A new study released today by Mercyhurst University supports anecdotal evidence from the Erie County Prison staff that inmates have become more problematic and dangerous to supervise over the past five years. 

Currently, Erie County Council members are reviewing the research study, a collaboration of Mercyhurst’s Public Safety Institute and two students in the intelligence and security support associate degree program at North East, as they prepare for a vote to increase staffing at the Erie County Prison later this year.

Students Russell Sutton of Erie and Sadie Prescott of North East joined Art Amann, Ed.D., director of the Public Safety Institute, to collect and analyze data on inmate characteristics.

During the time period examined in the study, 2007-2012, more inmates have been incarcerated for felony charges, and the average length of stay has increased by 22 percent. Other factors that contribute to the “problematic” nature of the prison population include the number of inmates seen by a psychiatrist, which increased by 52 percent (1,209 vs. 1,833); the number of inmates under suicide watch, which increased by 303 percent (217 vs. 874); the average number of male inmates diagnosed as seriously mentally ill, which increased by 34 percent (1,371 vs. 1,833); and the average number of female inmates diagnosed as seriously mentally ill, which increased by 33 percent (368 vs. 491).

Interestingly, these skyrocketing numbers occurred during a time when the average daily population at the prison remained fairly stable – that figure increased less than 1 percent from 2007-2012 (631 vs. 635).

Council members are using the report as part of their research in considering whether they will vote to hire 19 new correctional officers.

The Erie County Prison Inmate Characteristic Analysis is just one of many hands-on research projects completed by the intelligence and security support students at Mercyhurst North East.

Last spring, the risk management class performed a vulnerability assessment for the City of Erie Wastewater Treatment Facility (click here for video).

“This program gives students the opportunity to apply analytical, strategic research skills to provide products that are useful to decision-makers in many industries,” said Rick Lamb, intelligence and security support program director. “We’re very proud of our students for completing this research and providing valuable, actionable intelligence as County Council prepares to make this staffing decision.”

For more information, contact Rick Lamb at 814-725-6224 or


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