PITTSBURGH — Allegheny County Jail Superintendent Orlando Harper defended his administration during a live interview Thursday morning on Pittsburgh Cable News.
“We want to keep moving the prison forward, we want to make sure we’re applying best practices, we want to be a model for other prisons to get advice on,” Harper told PCNC anchor Chris Moore on his show. -“Pittsburgh Now” debate. ”
A few days earlier, Moore had interviewed Brian Englert, who is president of the union that represents correctional officers at the prison. Englert recently organized a “censorship” petition against Harper and told Moore that prison staff felt overworked, understaffed and worried about their safety.
“It’s very stressful and it’s never been so bad,” Englert said on the live show last week.
But on Thursday, Harper, along with two other officials who joined virtually, told Moore the jail was adequately staffed.
Officials said they were actively working to recruit and hire more employees, but were not being inundated with applications.
“I think every company, every company in the country has people issues,” Harper said. “It’s corrections nationwide that’s having trouble recruiting correctional officers…we’re doing everything we can to try to fill vacancies.”
Harper also pointed out that he has an “open door policy” and welcomes current staff to discuss issues, but said “very few” have done so.
Moore also asked Harper about the lawsuit recently filed by a former inmate, claiming his leg had to be amputated due to poor medical treatment at the prison.
Harper said he couldn’t comment on the ongoing litigation, but defended the medical staff.
“We provide our individuals with wonderful care,” he said at one point during the half-hour interview. “A lot of people who come to our facility have medical issues early on, right when they walk through the door. Many of these people have not received health care in years, so when they come to our facility it is the first time they have received health care.
But, during the show’s live call time, other former inmates pleaded to disagree, in what was an unexpected and somewhat tense moment.
Calling from the Butler County Jail, the inmates accused the warden of being dishonest.
“We’re here in Butler County watching this,” said one man, who identified himself as “Robert.” “There are about 50 ACJ detainees who have just arrived. … You tell them we have perfect medical staff and all that, I broke my wrist, I broke three bones.
The caller claimed he was not properly treated at the ACJ and only received proper care once at the Butler County Jail.
Another caller claimed he was unnecessarily quarantined after seeking medical treatment, but tested negative for COVID-19.
Harper defended the prison’s COVID-19 protocols.
Channel 11 shares a studio with PCNC, and our crew members reported that things were tense behind the scenes.
Later, we asked Moore about the call.
“It was a little uncomfortable, I think, for the manager to handle that,” Moore said. “His PR guy was a little upset, but that’s not my job, my job is to ask them the questions, and we got the other side earlier…so we had to ask. It’s perhaps a bit of a shame that we got the call. Who knew that was our audience at Butler County Jail? »
Channel 11 called and spoke with a Butler County Jail administrator, and we were told inmates had access to televisions and could make phone calls if they had money in their phone accounts. Although some numbers may be blocked, the PCNC line would not have been, as it is a legitimate number flashing on the screen.
After the interview aired, Channel 11 received this statement from Englert:
Director Harper said today that he has an ‘open door policy’. What he failed to mention is that you have to make an appointment to speak to him, which is the opposite of an ‘open door policy’. The director also replied after my interview on PCNC last week that “they appreciate the union at the prison and the union leadership”. The director and his deputies still refuse to answer critical security questions by e-mail. The director also disabled remote access to county emails for officers and union officials. This action further hampers the union’s ability to respond to dangerous situations and was done in a punitive manner, as it is not a countywide issue. Finally, in order to silence the union leadership, this administration recently sanctioned the union president for sending emails to medical staff regarding the distribution of suboxone, as well as tweeting about safety issues.
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