Allegheny County promises more mental health support, less use of force at its jail

Associated Press/Report for America, 03/19/24: “The Allegheny County jail could significantly increase its mental health staffing and provide more training about use of force and restraint under a proposed settlement filed Tuesday in federal court.

The agreement, which still requires a judge’s approval, would resolve a class action that accused the jail in Pittsburgh of offering inadequate treatment and medication for inmates with mental health disabilities, and often punishing them with extended solitary confinement or excessive force.

‘The lawsuit was bitter at first. But this is a sweet victory. Law enforcement doesn’t get to break the law to enforce it,’ Jason Porter, one of the five inmates represented as plaintiffs, said in a prepared statement.

Mental health care — from intake to medication, counseling and suicide prevention — was ‘either non-existent or wholly deficient’ when the lawsuit was filed in 2020, according to lawyers with the Abolitionist Law Center, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP.

The Allegheny County jail had one of the highest suicide rates among large county correctional facilities in Pennsylvania. A review of in-custody deaths between 2017 and 2022 found seven of 27 in-custody deaths were suicides.”

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