Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Warden Defends Lockdown amid Prison Hot Water Issue

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Warden Defends Lockdown amid Prison Hot Water Issue

Article excerpt

Allegheny County Jail Warden Orlando Harper on Thursday defended his decision to impose a modified lockdown after a water tower problem that cut off hot water to most of the jail.

Only the top three floors of the jail currently have hot water; the jail is four to eight stories tall because of its stepped construction. The 1,500 inmates on lower floors are being rotated through the upper floors for showers ahead of repairs the jail hopes to have completed by Saturday, he said at Thursday's Jail Oversight Board meeting.

Mr. Harper said the lockdown is "to protect the inmates who are being transferred from level one up to level six, seven and eight." The modified lockdown has canceled programming in the re-entry center and educational services, and has stopped visitation through Sunday.

Without a lockdown, he explained, inmates being brought up for showers could come into contact with inmates who they "are separated from," resulting in fights.

"I had to ensure the safety of the 1,500 inmates being transferred," Mr. Harper said.

He also underscored that the jail has heat and that both the kitchen and the laundry have hot water. In response to questions from the board, he added that the law library has remained open, inmates still have phone access and attorney visits have continued.

Mr. Harper's explanation came following complaints during the meeting's public comment period.

"This is extremely wrong and extremely inhumane. You're treating people like animals," said Jordan Malloy, of the Thomas Merton Center.

Bethany Hallam, a candidate in the Democratic primary for one of Allegheny County Council's two at-large seats, repeated her calls for an explanation. "When are we going to get answers on why inmates continue to suffer for problems that are resulting from the facility's lack of maintenance?" she said.

"We're exacerbating the issue by taking away their access to the outside world," said Ms. …

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