Lawyer will be working with Lewisburg inmates

December 6, 2017 | Marcia Moore | The Daily Item

A staff attorney is once again working at the Lewisburg Prison Project more than nine years after the position was eliminated.

James Davy stepped into the role Nov. 20 working with the nonprofit inmate advocacy group that serves in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project.

“There are a lot of claims that exist that I’ll get to assist,” he said, including two class-action lawsuits against the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg alleging mistreatment of mentally ill prisoners and excessive use of restraints in the Special Management Unit (SMU) of the prison.

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County's Settlement With Pregnant Inmates Shines Light on Missing Policies

November 16, 2017 | Lizzie McLellan | The Legal Intelligencer

Pennsylvania has received high rankings nationally for its treatment of pregnant inmates, but under a recent settlement, one of its counties will be forced to make changes to its conditions for women who are expecting while in jail.

Allegheny County agreed to a settlement earlier this month in Seitz v. Allegheny County, under which they are changing their policies for housing pregnant inmates. The agreement stems from five inmates’ federal lawsuit against the county over the practice of placing pregnant inmates in solitary confinement at the Allegheny County Jail. Four of the five plaintiffs had spent time in solitary confinement, between six and 22 days, during which time they spent 23 to 24 hours per day in an isolated cell.

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Allegheny County Jail agrees to stop putting pregnant inmates in solitary

November 9, 2017 | Ben Schmitt | Trib Live

The American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement Thursday regarding complaints about the Allegheny County Jail's practice of putting pregnant inmates in solitary confinement.

Four of the five plaintiffs spent time ranging from six to 22 days in solitary confinement while pregnant inside the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh.

“We are grateful that officials in Allegheny County have recognized how harmful it is to keep pregnant women in solitary confinement,” Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “It's unfortunate that it took a federal lawsuit for them to recognize this, but we're pleased the county has agreed to a progressive, comprehensive and humane policy. People who are incarcerated have a right to basic health care needs and to be treated humanely.”

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Does bias linger after death?

October 18, 2017 | Samantha Melamed | Philadelphia Inquirer

It is closing in on a year since Thomas Vaughan, 73, watched his grandson Zion step out the front door of his Yeadon home for the last time. Zion, a popular Penn Wood High School senior and a linebacker on the school’s football team, was killed less than a block from his home by a single gunshot to his back.

At the time, police told reporters there was no apparent motive. They still have not arrested a suspect.

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He stole a $1 lemonade, smoked pot - then nearly had to die in prison

September 27, 2017 | Samantha Melamed | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Twenty-four hours a day for 10 weeks, inmates in maroon uniforms with “D.O.C.” stamped on the backs held a death vigil over Frank Rodriguez. His colon cancer was terminal, but he refused to die — not behind the barbed wire and bars of Graterford Prison.

Like most states, Pennsylvania has a compassionate-release law, a way out for dying inmates. Rodriguez, who was so weak he needed help eating, bathing, and turning on his side, qualified. But successful petitions are exceedingly rare and excruciatingly slow.

Rodriguez had not committed a violent crime. He was locked up on a parole violation — smoking marijuana — for the underlying offense of stealing a $1 lemonade from a 7-Eleven store in 2013.

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From the prisoners’ perspective

September 8, 2017 | Susan Colón | The Standard-Journal

LEWISBURG — More than 200 people attended an event by the Lewisburg Prison Project and co-hosted by Bucknell University this week.

Rebecca Armstrong, outreach coordinator for the Lewisburg Prison Project, suggested a student/community event that would address the issue of incarceration and mental illness. The freshman book this year was “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. The book addresses the continued growth of incarceration and correlations due to race and socioeconomic status. Two excerpts from the book are, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” and “The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.”

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Allegheny County Jail officials decided not to tell family members about inmate's assault

August 3, 2017 | Shelley Bradbury | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After 20-year-old Keyshawn Givens was beaten so severely in the Allegheny County Jail that he was sent to a hospital on July 25, jail officials decided not to tell his family about the incident.

No one from the jail alerted the inmate’s listed emergency contact, jail Deputy John Williams said in a statement this week, because officials determined the injuries were not serious or life-threatening, and because of security concerns.

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Transgender inmate says prison wrongly halted hormone meds

June 26, 2017 | Terrie Morgan-Besecker | The Times-Tribune

Steven Fritz, 44, of Scranton, received hormone medications while incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale. She expected to continue the medications when she was incarcerated at the county jail on new theft charges, but the medical staff abruptly stopped the drugs after just three days, she said.

Joseph D’Arienzo, spokesman for the county, declined to discuss the case, citing medical privacy laws. He confirmed the county has no policy regarding hormone treatment for transgenders.

The prison’s denial of treatment is at odds with the state Department of Corrections’ policy regarding hormone treatment for transgenders and likely violates Fritz’s constitutional rights, which could lead to a lawsuit, attorneys for a transgender advocacy group and prisoners rights group said.

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