Cambria County Prison

The Cambria County Prison in Ebensburg on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

EBENSBURG, Pa. – The United States is experiencing an ammunition shortage, and law enforcement isn’t exempt from that trend, Cambria County Prison Warden Christian Smith said Wednesday.

“There’s a six- to eight-month wait time for ammo, but the delay only slightly affects our operations,” he said.

Emergency stockpiles are healthy, but training is where the shortage is felt, he said.

Smith said 45 staff members completed firearms training recently – 75 would normally be trained.

The shortage especially affects 9mm and .40 caliber pistol ammunition.

Smith talked about the ammo shortage in his operations report during a prison board meeting at the Cambria County Prison.

Cambria County District Attorney and prison board member Gregory Neugebauer said it’s difficult for all area law enforcement agencies to get enough ammo for training purposes.

“There are so many unknowns that have driven purchases of ammo up,” he said. “It’s created a storm that caused ammo prices to go up 300%.”

In a phone interview from his shop on Scalp Avenue after the meeting, Sporting Goods Discounters owner Denny Salem said people have been hoarding ammo for fear of not being able to get it.

Copper and brass, the materials to make ammo, have been sought after internationally for additional uses, including construction and electronics.

“People that ran into ammo hoarded it, because it was in such short supply,” Salem said.

In his prison operations report, Smith also noted an increase in food costs.

Increases in freight charges and product prices have resulted in an increase of 3 cents per prison meal since July, he said. The total price for one meal is now up to $1.26.

At 1,400 meals per day, the cost increase would come to more than $15,000 after one year. But it may not stop there, he said.

“I don’t see an end in sight of prices going up,” Smith said. “To cut prices, we are partnering with Westmoreland County to buy in bulk and split a shipment.”

Also during the meeting Wednesday, the prison board laid out plans to investigate potential repairs to the prison building’s aging roof.

Tremco Roofing, based in Ohio, is scheduled to visit the prison next week to conduct a roof inspection, including infrared testing, to determine the scope of the project.

Smith also shared his monthly COVID-19 update on Wednesday. The prison’s COVID-19 case count among staff members increased by five from July to August, he said.

Since the pandemic began more than a year ago, there have been 76 cases among staff and 303 cases among inmates, he said. 

Russ O'Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @RussellOReilly.

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