Allegheny County Jail

Detre Library and Archives / Sen. John Heinz History Center

The old Allegheny County Jail towers over Ross Street. Built of foot-thick blocks of pink Worcester marble, the complex hasn’t held a prisoner since July 27, 1995, but it still manages to impart a chill. Inside, visitors can tour an old cellblock: small and bleak.

“This is the most damning audit in terms of the findings in my tenure,” says Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner.

The controller is referring to an audit of Corizon, the Tennessee-based firm contracted to manage the infirmary and health care for inmates at the County Jail. Corizon provides health services at other jails and prisons across the country, including Rikers in New York

Wagner said Corizon, which is paid $11 million a year, is failing to provide clinical care to inmates. 

Breaking the Cycle of Incarceration at Allegheny County Jail

Oct 8, 2014
Reid Carter / 90.5WESA

Breaking the cycle of jail and prison re-entry is not an easy process, especially for repeat offenders. There are lifestyle choices that need to be considered and often times avoided. 

But that requires the right behavioral coaching and support. The Allegheny County Jail runs a collaborative program with Pittsburgh Mercy Health System which was recently evaluated by the Urban Institute in Washington D.C. and found to successfully reduce recidivism.

We’ll talk about how the collaborative works with Karen Cordaro Team Leader Prevention/Intervention Services for PMHS. We’ll also talk with Darrell Robinson, from the Point Breeze area of Pittsburgh. He’s a repeat offender currently on work-release and going through the collaborative program. He’s also enrolled in the Mechatronics Program at CCAC.

Fast food workers weren’t the only ones taking their message to the streets Thursday. The same day, healthcare workers at the Allegheny County Jail gathered at the County Courthouse, calling on the County Jail Oversight board to enforce staffing requirements laid out in a contract between the county and Corizon, a prison health management company.

“The numbers that have been agreed to as far as staffing for the infirmary, the mental health units – are not being met,” said Randa Ruge, and organizer with United Steelworkers, the union representing the workers.

Jailhouse Poets Find Voice in Writing Course

Aug 24, 2014
Molly Duerig / PublicSource

Brother Umar wears ketchup-colored jail garb. He’s been locked up for 14 months, but his words earn him snaps as if he’s at a hipster coffee shop.

“For good Abel can’t help but to sacrifice his life to this ‘caine that’s so fatal,” he recites, part preacher, part emcee. Then, conversationally: “That’s Cain and Abel.”

Umar, whose real name is Chris Westbrooks Jr., is in the Allegheny County Jail awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault in connection with a 2013 shooting in Duquesne.

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner this week sent a letter to Corizon Health, Inc. detailing her concerns about allegations that the company is providing substandard healthcare to inmates at the Allegheny County Jail.

Those allegations first surfaced in a Dec. 8 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which revealed internal e-mails between jail staff and Corizon.

About one in three Allegheny County Jail inmates who don't receive job training while incarcerated wind up back in the lockup within 12 months. But that rate is cut in half if they participate in the Jail Collaborative's education program.

Now 100 inmates, men and women, will receive technical training toward careers in the energy industry in hopes of further reducing that rate of recidivism.