Allegheny County Jail used the restraint chair more than any other PA county

Update (3/6/2021): At the March 4 Jail Oversight Board meeting, Warden Orlando Harper reported to the board about restraint chair use. It was a deviation from what he typically shares at these meetings in response to the board asking for more information on how the jail uses the device following the original PublicSource report below. He said the jail used the restraint chair 18 times in February. He promised that, at the April board meeting, he would provide the March count and include the numb

The coming crisis in dementia care and why Pa. is woefully unprepared

Pat Loughney (right) cared for his wife, Candy, in their home until she became ill after eating medicated soap. Candy is one of 280,000 Pennsylvanians over the age of 64 living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia. Read more Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters. Pat Loughney was sle

‘If your mom can go in and see it, so can the cops’: How law enforcement is using social media to identify Black Lives Matter protesters in Pittsburgh

A task force made up of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies has charged 32 people with crimes related to the recent Black Lives Matter protests in Pittsburgh. In a majority of the cases, charging documents show that law enforcement used social media as a tool to identify suspects and gather evidence on alleged crimes. In early June, after protests in Downtown and East Liberty over the death of George Floyd, the City of Pittsburgh created the Damage Assessment and Accountability Ta

15 former medical employees speak out about conditions at Allegheny County Jail

When David Sacks was hired in late August as a mental health specialist at Allegheny County Jail [ACJ], he looked forward to doing what he knows best: caring for individuals with mental illness. Sacks arrived with over two decades of experience in correctional mental healthcare. He’d overseen the restricted housing unit for mentally ill inmates at SCI Greene, a state maximum security prison in Greene County, for 13 years. “I had great hopes of being able to help them provide a higher level of t

The True Cost of Court Debt: 376,000 PA drivers have their licenses suspended for unpaid traffic tickets. That’s more than the population of Pittsburgh.

Macon said he had his license restored in January. He started a payment plan though still has a court date for driving on a suspended license. For months afterward, 34-year-old Macon woke up at 4 a.m. to catch three buses from his home in Wilkinsburg to the warehouse in Robinson where he worked at the time. He said the trip took up to two hours. Losing his license had other repercussions. He had planned to obtain a commercial driver’s license and apply for higher-paying jobs as a truck driver.

Emails show Allegheny County district attorney’s office used trial of controversial facial recognition technology Clearview

“Dystopian” and “'Black Mirror'-esque” are among the ways critics have described Clearview, a facial recognition technology startup founded in 2016. The program’s ability to scrape photos off of the web and instantly aggregate information on just about anyone with an online presence, without their knowledge, has drawn the ire of privacy advocates, Democratic lawmakers and the same social media companies it relies on for data. The system has been used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies in

‘They’re totally consumed’: Pennsylvania’s Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers need more help

Crisis of Care: The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to swell exponentially in Pennsylvania, one of the oldest states in the nation. But efforts to prepare are falling short. The first time Betty Kinter’s husband disappeared, he left their Murrysville house to grab the garbage bin at the end of their driveway and got lost. Luckily, a neighbor spotted him sitting on a wall at the beginning of their housing development, picked him up and brought him home. “I was pretty

Amid a mental health crisis, these Pittsburgh groups are stepping up

Before the pandemic, society was already experiencing a mental health crisis. Now, it’s even worse. A surge in demand, combined with too few providers and high treatment costs, can make accessing services challenging. Where traditional health systems are lagging, community groups are stepping in. From providing therapy to Black Pittsburghers and new parents to creating virtual community healing spaces, here’s how three Pittsburgh organizations are filling gaps in need. Last spring, two and a h

Do enough Pittsburgh therapists accept Medicaid? Some see a shortage.

When Conrad Kalcich lost his property management job at the beginning of the pandemic, he switched to Medicaid insurance. But there was a problem: his online therapist of four years couldn’t get credentialed to accept it. He knew it would be difficult to find another therapist who was transgender-affirming and met his other treatment needs. So for months, he paid $80 per session out of pocket. “Finding a new therapist is crazy town and overwhelming,” said Kalcich. Lizzie Anderson, a therapist

Gainey and Peduto raised more than $1 million. Here’s where it came from.

Tuesday marks the end of Pittsburgh’s contentious mayoral race in which incumbent Bill Peduto and leading challenger state Rep. Ed Gainey raised more than $1.2 million combined in campaign funds since Jan. 1. The financial records of their campaigns show markedly different strategies and donor bases. While Peduto holds a major financial advantage, raising far more money and pulling in tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-state contributions, Gainey leads in small donations and has more evenly

Chauvin conviction in Floyd murder brings bittersweet relief to Pittsburghers

“The fact that people were on edge that this man might not be found guilty speaks volumes about the changes that need to be made to our criminal justice system." That's how Brandi Fisher, president and CEO of the Alliance for Police Accountability, described the guilty verdict of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in a rare rebuke for police violence Tuesday evening. Fisher was at Freedom Corner in the Hill District with roughly 150 Pittsburghers to celebrate the conviction of Chau

Therapy in jail? Experts say it’s a good idea — but obstacles abound

Justin Rape was a teenager the first time he landed in the Allegheny County Jail. His struggle with mental illness — and consequently, law enforcement — started when he was a child. Growing up, he grappled with rejection from his father, and his ADHD and social anxiety were difficult to manage for his mom, a single parent of five children. “She’d have to call the police to get me under control,” Rape said, recalling fits of yelling and throwing items. By age 14, he was a “frequent flyer” with

How transparent is Allegheny County Jail? Less so than other PA jails.

Editor’s note: This story was produced for Sunshine Week, an annual, nationwide celebration of government transparency and access to information taking place March 14-20. PublicSource frequently uses the Right-to-Know law, as it did in this story, and encounters varying degrees of transparency by Pennsylvania’s public agencies. To better understand how incarcerated people are cared for, PublicSource sought all Allegheny County Jail policies related to mental health, suicide prevention, administ

The U.S. is expecting a pandemic baby bust. Pittsburgh’s numbers differ.

Laurie Sloan and her husband have always known they wanted to have a big family. The stay-at-home mom, who is now pregnant with her fourth child, didn’t let the pandemic stop their plans. “We were stuck at home and hanging out together and it was kind of fun watching all the kids be close in age and play together,” she said. Sloan, who is now expecting a son in June, thought being pregnant during the pandemic would allow her to spend more time preparing for his arrival. “I thought by the time t

How understaffing harms medical treatment at Pittsburgh’s jail

At Allegheny County Jail, waiting for medical care can be like taking a number and waiting weeks or months before it’s called. Some people wait months to see a medical professional — or leave the jail before getting treatment. Medications are mixed up, given late or missed altogether. Contrary to state regulations, new arrivals often have to sit in a holding cell for days before receiving a medical screening, sometimes without their medications or while enduring severe detox symptoms. According

Allegheny County Jail limits inmates’ access to books

Update (12/2/20): The Allegheny County Jail announced that it restored inmates' ability to receive books from and The policy had been temporarily suspended due to an investigation regarding potential contraband. "While the investigation remains ongoing, additional staff training has been completed and other controls have been put in place related to the testing of printed materials to allow the program to resume," Warden Orlando Harper wrote in a press rele

PA’s vote count will take time. Experts urge patience.

On election night in 2016, voters across the country stayed up into the early morning hours awaiting the presidential election results. The race was a nail-biter, but at 2:30 a.m. — six and a half hours after polls in Pennsylvania closed — the Associated Press called the election for Donald Trump. The timing of election night on Nov. 3 will likely be very different. With more than 2.8 million Pennsylvanians requesting mail-in ballots as of Oct. 21, and election officials unable to begin proces

PA AG’s office use trial of facial recognition tech Clearview

Amid controversy over the use of facial recognition by law enforcement, records show that 10 employees from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office signed up for trial versions of a technology called Clearview in March and June. Clearview is a facial recognition startup that aggregates photos from the open web into a database marketed to law enforcement. The platform has been met with widespread criticism — from researchers, privacy advocates, Democratic lawmakers and many of the social medi

What to know about infant mental health — and how COVID-19 factors in

When it comes to mental health, it’s easy to assume babies are too young to have complex emotions, experience intense stress or become depressed. Yet research shows otherwise: infant mental health [IMH] reveals a lot about babies’ emotional needs, especially in the age of coronavirus. The field first gained awareness in the 1970s, and since then, Pittsburgh has become one of the nation’s leading cities for IMH research and services. Local programs such as the University of Pittsburgh’s Early He
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