Westmoreland County has been threatened with federal lawsuits by jail inmates who claim they were not able to file formal grievances over alleged mistreatment at the lockup.
County officials this week received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union in Pittsburgh that claimed inmates' constitutional rights are being violated.
"Failure to ensure that prison officials timely provide prisoners with the proper grievance forms exposes Westmoreland County Prison to a substantial risk of many lengthy and costly lawsuits," said the April 12 letter, signed by ACLU legal fellow Alexandra T. Morgan- Kurtz.
The county's formal, written policy is deficient and relies on a deputy warden's assessment that an inmate's complaint should be preserved in writing and addressed by administrators, the ACLU claims.
Eleven such written grievances were filed last year, according to the ACLU.
"For an institution which houses over 500 inmates to only receive an average of one grievance a month is powerful evidence that something is amiss with the prison's grievance process," the group contends.
The ACLU has received at least a dozen complaints from inmates who claim they were rebuffed in attempts to file a grievance, ACLU Legal Director Witold "Vic" Walczak said.
Inmates will be advised to file federal lawsuits if county officials continue to deny inmates an opportunity to file formal grievances, Walczak said. …