Proponents urge all Fitzhenald, chief government of Allegheny County, to attend conferences of the Jail Oversight Board

From Dannys Marrero
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer

On Tuesday, May 4th, community leaders marched into the office of Allegheny County Executive Fitzgerald and asked him to attend meetings of the Allegheny County Jail Oversight Board as required by state law.

The purpose of the Jail Oversight Board (JOB) is to ensure proper administration of the county jail. Although Fitzgerald is a member of the Jail Oversight Board under state law, the records suggest that he has not attended a JOB meeting since taking office in 2012. The Current covered the issue in detail in March.

“We demand [Fitzgerald] Attend board meetings dedicated to the conditions and operations at Allegheny County Jail, ”said Terrell Leonard, a member of the Allegheny County Jail Strategic Committee.

Delivered by 1Hood’s Ryan Whyte, the three-page letter highlighted many of the serious allegations made against the ACJ during the COVID-19 pandemic, including its initial refusal to test the prison population.

“I was incarcerated and went through these conditions during COVID-19. I caught COVID myself in Allegheny County Jail, “said Leonard,” this letter [demands that] he presents himself and [make] some change. At least attend the meetings; At the very least, be aware of what is going on in your county. “

Other allegations mentioned in the letter concerned the standard placement of persons with mental disabilities in solitary confinement, the routine and prolonged use of restraint chairs, the rampant and unnecessary use of force, mismanagement and mistreatment of staff, leading to acute staff shortages (especially in the medical field) led unit), worse than nonexistent physical and mental health care, fluctuating and inconsistent drug distribution, inedible food, unsanitary conditions including dirty trays, live and dead cockroaches in food, rats in kitchen areas, failure to provide cleaning products to individuals, cells and the abuse and targeted misclassification of transgender inmates.

Charles Timbers, a former male nurse in Allegheny County Jail, was one of the concerned citizens in attendance.

“We want Rich Fitzgerald to be held accountable for what went on at the Allegheny County Jail. I was a former employee so I saw some of the atrocities that took place at Allegheny County Jail. Rich Fitzgerald has not attended any of these meetings in over a decade, “said Timbers.” He’s neglecting that responsibility, and we want to know why. How can you just sit back and watch these things happen in your home? The ACJ is part of their administration and they have to deal with these conditions and they just completely ignored us. “

When the coalition walked into the office with the letter at hand, they were quickly dismissed by the receptionist, saying the county executive was unavailable at the time.

Members explained the contents of the letter and why it was of paramount importance for Fitzgerald to acknowledge, whereupon the receptionist assured Fitzgerald would receive the letter.

“He’s the boss of Warden Orlando Harper and Deputy Warden Laura Williams, and we’re asking for some administrative changes,” said Timbers.

The group left the office but not without assuring them that they will continue to hold Fitzgerald accountable until changes are made for the better at the Allegheny County Jail. The next meeting of the JOB is Thursday, May 6th.

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