Meadville Tribune

Local News

February 28, 2013

County's picks for jail probe revealed

MEADVILLE — The Crawford County Prison Board has released the names of two certified correctional professionals expected to handle the county jail’s upcoming independent review. The review comes in response to a small group of critics which publicly has raised concerns about the jail’s operations following a handful of high-profile incidents over the past few years at the jail in Saegertown.

James Hart, past president of the American Correctional Association, and Denny Macomber, chief of jail standards for the Nebraska Crime Commission, were confirmed as the top two picks out of five potential inspectors, according to Francis Weiderspahn Jr., chairman of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners.

“We’re heading toward a set date and time,” Weiderspahn said, having communicated with the future inspectors.

Weiderspahn anticipates the prison review will last two to three days. The inspectors will then compile their observations and send the board any subsequent recommendations.

“We’ve also confirmed their food and lodging will come at no cost to the county,” Weiderspahn said.

The prison board, with the backing of all three county commissioners, decided two months ago to follow through with the independent review, operated by the National Institute of Corrections, an agency of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The Erie County Jail recently underwent a similar review by the institute, which is unable to make mandates for lack of county jurisdiction.

The National Institute of Corrections recently sent the county the names of five potential reviewers with their qualifications and requested the county to rank them in order of preference, according to Weiderspahn.

In October 2009, Crawford County’s prison board, which included the previous board of commissioners, had an internal investigation of allegations of mistreatment at the jail and said those investigations determined that all allegations were unfounded.

The jail board also has noted the county jail has had five consecutive perfect scores following inspections by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. The latest state inspection was in the spring of 2012. Those inspections include review of records as well as interviews with inmates and staff members.

However, there have been high-profile incidents that have raised concern about the jail. A federal lawsuit has been filed against the county by the family of an inmate who died at the jail in 2008; and a corrections officer died of injuries sustained while on duty in 2010. As recently as Nov. 15, 2012, a former inmate alleged to commissioners she was mistreated while an inmate at the jail, though no lawsuit has been filed.

Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kfekos@meadvilletribune.com.

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