Where Allegheny County Jail Fails
Inside the Jail- Better than Some
Dishonorable Judge Gerald Todd - where his courtroom is
Examples of Inadequacies at ACJ
I should state that while I was incarcerated at Allegheny County Jail - other than the situation I went into in greater depth in an article I have attached to this one, I made the most of it by tutoring and helping others. If I had to be in jail, I made it the most possible positive experience possible. This does not mean that there were not stressful and unnecessary negative experiences that I or others did not experience. Again, please read my attached article(s)
The public, in general, is not aware of the abuses and inadequacies that occur in the Allegheny County Jail, henceforth designated ACJ. It is the purpose of this treatise to address several of them.
First, the use of minimum and maximum sentences is not utilized as intended by the majority of the judges of the Common Pleas Court. For example, if an inmate is sentenced for 11&1/2 to 23 months, the judge has sentenced that person knowing his entire arrest record and theoretically sentenced him accordingly. The inmate is told that if he follows the prescriptive plan as ordered by the judge, he will be paroled on his minimum. What is happening with the majority of inmates, who have completed their directives and had a "positive" incarceration, they are finding that their judge paroles them months beyond their minimums. This adds to the high cost of incarceration and unnecessarily delays the inmate from returning to their family and loved ones AND becoming positive contributors to society. The question that needs to be asked is why have a system of minimum and maximum sentences if that system is not going to be followed and obeyed as intended and mandated. For example, I worked with a staff member who is a personal friend of a judge. They get along fine and teases her about her severe courtroom demeanor. She told him that she does not like to parole on minimums because she is scared they will go out and do something illegal. I said, "I realize many judges think of themselves as all-knowing and Godlike but unless she can read the future, it only makes sense to sentence within guidelines and honor that system... or sentence them for life!"
Secondly, the incompetency of the medical system has had a great deal of publicity yet little has improved since this fact has become exposed to the taxpaying public. For example, when an inmate puts in a slip to medical to address a medical problem, there is often an abnormally long period of time until anyone addresses the problem. Often the first person one sees cannot address the problem because of the seriousness of the problem and another long period of time must be suffered until the inmate is taken to the appropriate medical professional.
Often, the staff will make decisions about an inmates care or change in medication and not involve the patient at all with this decision often resulting in negative consequences. For example, once I was prescribed a change in medicine because of a formulary problem. I was not informed of this change. Years ago, I had tried the newer medicine with a resulting serious side effect. If I had not been a pharmacist and familiar with the capsule, I would not have noticed the change and the result very likely would have resulted in dire consequences. The jail's attitude appears to be that it is easier to deal with unnecessary mistakes, that could have been avoided, by paying out and settling with expensive lawsuits rather than circumvent this costly mistake by just "doing the right thing". Whether one is an inmate or a patient in a hospital, a human being is a human being and deserves adequate, compassionate and appropriate medical care.
Another area that needs to be addressed is the lag in time when a judge orders an inmate to be released and the time it actually happens. A judge may order an inmate to be released on a particular day but due to an archaic system, an inmate often sits incarcerated waiting days for paperwork to be processed. Apparently the use of computers has not been initiated at ACJ. It should be stated that this extra time of incarceration is money paid to the jail, and yes, paid by the overburdened taxpayer. For example, last year an inmate went to Butler County Jail to address a simple legal issue. It was resolved at the magistrate level and the result was immediately sent to the Butler Jail, via computer, and the detainer utilized to bring the inmate to the Butler Jail was immediately lifted. When the inmate was returned to Allegheny County Jail, the PAPERWORK required by ACJ was "lost" in a stacks of paper and was not resolved for more than three months. The inmate had to write numerous letters to the magistrate and Butler County Jail to resolve the issue as no one at ACJ was willing to help resolve their own mistake. This loss of time not only negatively affects the inmate returning to a useful life but also punishes the inmate loved ones who are patiently waiting outside the jail for their loved ones to be released.
The last issue to be addressed is the use of inmates as workers in the jail. Most inmates, including this writer, are happy to be useful and allowed to do things to make his time in jail go faster. There are staff members who appreciate the work and treat the inmates well while there are many who don't. Most jails pay the inmates a small amount of compensation via money or items from the commissary. Allegheny County Jail rarely does this. This is illegal. I, for example, while incarcerated, was once forced to take a third job with the threat I would be fired from the jobs I did have and enjoy, and sent to a level where privileges would be reduced and a negative report would be sent to my judge. Inmates are often made to deal with noxious and caustic chemicals and "substances" such as urine and feces, without any protection such as gloves and/or masks. Inmates working in "intake" are made to clean the feces and blood without minimum protection. There have been times the sewage backs up and the workers and the "new inductees" are made to stand and wade through the material that has backed back into the ground level from the sewage system. I will let you imagination run appropriately wild visualizing the floating debris and stench. Inmates risk life and limb for an extra tray of low quality food and often this is overlooked and not provided. It must be highlighted that the prison saves many thousands of dollars in money due to the work of the inmates. Yes, inmates should be required to do something positive in the jail but not treated as a slave or abused animal.
Yes, incarceration is meant to be a form of punishment but it is not meant to be and should not be cruel and inhumane. there are positive aspects to incarceration at ACJ but the negative aspects greatly outweigh the positive. For those with empathy and compassion, it is obvious that the system, as it is now at ACJ, must be overhauled. For those who are strictly dollars and cents type of people, the huge waste in taxpayer money is inexcusable. Imagine the benefits to society if Allegheny County Jail would combine punishment with returning inmates to be positive contributors to society as opposed to returning them as detriments to society. I will allow the reader to answer that question.
Conclusion- Society Would Benefit With a Better System
Yes, incarceration is meant to be a form of punishment but it is not meant to be and should not be cruel and inhumane. There are positive aspects to incarceration at ACJ but the negative aspects greatly outweigh the positive. For those with empathy and compassion, it is obvious that the system, as it is now at ACJ, must be overhauled. For those who are strictly dollars and cents type of people, the huge waste in taxpayer money is inexcusable. Imagine the benefits to society if Allegheny County Jail would combine punishment with returning inmates to be positive contributors to society as opposed to returning them as detriments to society. I will allow the reader to answer that question.
Allegheny County Courthouse
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