The union representing correctional officers at the Allegheny County Jail has authorized a vote of no confidence in Warden Orlando Harper.

Brian Englert, the union’s president, said following Wednesday’s prison oversight board meeting that they had already collected 150 signatures.

Still, Englert said he wasn’t sure all officers would vote for it.

“They are terrified of retaliation,” he said.

A petition on Change.org which says it was posted by the union, had collected 160 signatures by Wednesday evening.

In the letter to county administrators, he described issues with morale, security, personnel and communication.

Amie Downs, spokeswoman for County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, said in response to Englert’s comments, “The administration continues to have complete confidence in Warden Harper and the jail‘s leadership team. county.

At recent monthly board meetings, Englert has been critical of the jail and county administration, including Wednesday’s meeting at the Allegheny County Courthouse.

The issue of prison staff has come up a number of times, and county council chairman Pat Catena, sitting on the board, asked Harper if he could say how many positions there were.

Harper said he didn’t have the numbers in front of him and wouldn’t guess.

Englert told Catena, however, that there were at least 50 vacancies among correctional officers; he said the prison was dangerously understaffed.

As an example, he said an officer, as of March 1, had worked 82 hours in six days due to forced overtime, resulting in anxiety, sleep deprivation and impaired concentration.

“He’s just one of my many officers who come in every day,” he said. “We run this prison every day, and these are the side effects of our overtime. Don’t take this as union-management grievances. This goes beyond labor management grievances.

Englert said medical and mental health staffing levels are also inadequate. In 13 shifts from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. during the month of February, he said, there were no medical or mental health staff – or both – on the ward. of reception.

Englert told the board that the county executive had dropped the idea of ​​retention or recruiting bonuses to improve staffing.

“There doesn’t appear to be an officer recruiting plan,” Englert said. “I asked them to remove the ‘thank you’ sign and replace it with a ‘help wanted’ sign, and no response on that either.”

Downs said the county provides bonuses for prison nursing and medical staff.

In his report to the board, deputy chief warden Jason Beasom said 15 correctional officer academy candidates completed their physical agility assessment over the past week and will now move on to test assessment. psychological. Once they pass, he said, they will start at the academy in early April.

Those 15 potential applicants came from a pool of 106 applications collected between Nov. 1 and Feb. 1, Beasom said.

Paula Reed Ward is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Paula by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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