Meadville Tribune

October 24, 2013

County jail warden addresses criticisms

Meadville Tribune

SAEGERTOWN — These are the comments Warden Tim Lewis of the Crawford County Correctional Facility made Thursday at the county prison board meeting with regard to allegations of prison mistreatment by corrections officers either on inmates or during inmate-on-inmate assaults. The three Crawford County commissioners, who are members of the seven-member prison board, asked Lewis to review allegations raised in the last few years by Sam Byrd Jr. of Meadville, a local prisoner advocate.

Ferguson and Boyer

Pennsylvania State Police called because of the nature of the attack on Mr. Harry Boyer. Mr. Michael Ferguson went completely out of his way to attack Mr. Boyer causing bodily injuries to Mr. Boyer. This was an incident that needed to be handled and investigated by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Robert Lee

Now you state that Mr. Robert Lee was allegedly assaulted twice by several of my staff and Pennsylvania State Police not called. Let me set the record straight!! Mr. Lee’s mental condition while incarcerated here, I believed not to be in the best of condition. However, I’m no mental health expert. But just the same Mr. Lee was treated probably better than most of any of the other inmates that were incarcerated at the time of his stay here. Mr. Lee was permitted to have his wife visit him each day so she too could see his conditions. At that time Mrs. Lee was very thankful and quite appreciative of those visits. As far as being assaulted, that’s the furthest from the truth. On occasions Mr. Lee did need to be restrained for his safety as well as my staffs. For example: an officer was handing out medications to Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee became agitated and grabbed the entire package of meds from my staff’s hand and what the officer thought, threw the meds all through his cell. And then at the very same time had a cup of liquid type substance and threw it all over my staff’s face and chest area. Now we can all pretty much assume what that liquid substance was!! At that point a team of officers was assembled under the direction of the on duty shift lieutenant to extract Mr. Lee from his cell with the minimal amount of force needed to retrieve the medications and clean up the liquid substance. As this team entered Mr. Lee’s cell verbal commands were given to Mr. Lee. Instead of Mr. Lee obeying the direct commands, he chose to charge towards the officers in a manner to where his fist were closed, arms flailing to the point he meant to cause bodily harm to my staff. My staff is trained on how to deal with these types of situations and what needs done using the proper equipment and techniques. Mr. Lee while thrashing about grabbed my shift lieutenant’s eye glasses from his face and began smashing them and grinding the glass into his own hands to point that Mr. Lee received multiple cuts on his hands. At this point something needed to be done!! The order was given to use the take down technique in order to place Mr. Lee in handcuffs and leg cuffs. While this was being done, Mr. Lee was not only very combative and abusive, but saw it fit to bite my shift lieutenant’s arm causing injury to my shift lieutenant causing this lieutenant to be taken to the hospital and not to mention all aftercare required from a human bite. Or the time when Mr. Lee played dead in his cell just in order to get a staff to enter his cell and assault them once inside beside him. And when the staff entered his cell to help him or make sure he was breathing because they thought Mr. Lee was in some sort of distress, MR. Lee chose to smack my staff member directly in the face sending this staff member to the hospital with multiple facial injuries. I’m here to inform you and others, Mr. Lee was NOT assaulted by anyone of my staff here at this institution. It’s just the opposite of that. Mr. Lee was the one doing all the assaulting, but that information never surfaced.

Inmates Whitman and Butterfield

I am glad I get to finally speak on what information I have on these two inmates. Mr. Byrd you state that Mr. Joshua Whitman and Mr. Jonathan Butterfield was allegedly assaulted at Crawford County Correctional Facility while they were incarcerated here and Pennsylvania State Police not called. Here’s what I, along with each and every other of my staff learned from the assaults on these 2 inmates. It’s alleged by both Mr. Whitman and Mr. Butterfield that that you informed these two inmates that if they would get into an altercation with CCCF staff to the point to where there was blood or scrapes, marks or bruising, that you would get them out of jail. Thinking this was true, these two inmates did just as you are alleged of telling them to do. They make a plan, but in the process of planning they try to get other inmates to take part in this also. The smarter inmate’s want nothing to do with it. As a matter of FACT, what I show on record is the smarter inmates inform the CCCF staff prior to any of this taking place, with the plan, the time, and how it was to all go down. These two inmates did just as they were told to do allegedly by Mr. Byrd and what they told the other inmates they were going to do. They started and caused a commotion, thinking they could get my staff to go in and do bodily harm to them. First let me say I can honestly sit here and say I don’t have any bad or unprofessional staff here. They’re all trained on how to deal with these types of situations and they do it very professionally manner. Now, you Mr. Byrd as someone that’s not familiar with these types of take down maneuvers body moves, may think in your mind that the inmate is being assaulted or beat up, when in fact they’re not. It’s how each CCCF staff, along with any other correctional officer is trained to protect themselves as well as other inmates, citizens and the facility itself. But at any rate my staff handled this incident as they are trained to do. I have written documents from both staff and inmates pertaining to this incident that will show it was a planned attempt to get out of jail, a plan that failed and one that would have never taken place in this county, and these two inmates did not get hurt or assaulted in any manner when my staff had to deal with this incident.

Inmate Sharene Matthews

Again, Pennsylvania State Police not called because of the nature of the incident. This was an incident to where Ms. Matthews antagonized, provoked, and approached the other inmate into an altercation. One could allege that maybe someone told Ms. Matthews the same information concerning getting into an altercation and then they could get her out of jail. At any rate I quote from the official record of “in-house” charges; “INMATE MATTHEWS PURSUED THIS LINE OF TAUNTING AND MADE NO ATTEMPT TO EVADE INMATE WOLF’S PRESENCE.” End quote.

Inmate Chris Roydes

Yes, you’re correct. Pennsylvania State Police was called from this institution to have them do an investigation. However, once they are on scene it becomes their incident. One thing that you need to take into consideration Mr. Byrd. There’s a lot of information gathered and looked at that the general public doesn’t know about to make these troopers make the decisions they do, not to file charges. I also want it to be known that on each incident Pennsylvania State Police is called in for, I respect their decision, whatever it may be, because I know for a fact each trooper does a thorough investigation to reach the decision he or she has made.

Inmate Greg Brown

Possible litigation — No Comment

Title 37; Chapter 95.242

We are meeting or exceeding what is expected according to the law.

Editor’s note: Warden Lewis is referring to the 100 percent scores on the two-year jail inspections of the county jail from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012.