Prisons and Corrections in the News
Pennsylvania and Lehigh Valley - Prisons and Corrections in the News
- Plain Smell Doctrine: The Pennsylvania Superior Court has decided that the odor of marijuana no longer establishes per se probable cause to search a motor vehicle. This is a landmark victory for defendants charged with crimes, as in vast number of stops and arrests police justify an intrusive search of defendant's vehicle based on the smell of marijuana.
- 'This is a blank canvas': Creating Philly's new Citizens Police Oversight Commission
(WHYY: Nov. 13, 2020)
- How mental health pros intervene on a 911 call - what didn't happen for Walter Wallace Jr. (BillyPenn: Nov. 8, 2020) If there is a weapon involved, "people feel comfortable enough to relinquish [it]," a local crisis response expert said.
- Defund the police? Why that's a bad idea in Allentown
(Paul Muschick, MorningCall, Nov. 2, 2020)
- Police shooting interrupts hearing on proposed police oversight commission
(WHYY: Oct. 26, 2020)
- Pittsburgh Task force on police reform announces its recommendations
(Post-Gazette: Oct. 19, 2020)
- With two City Council members objecting, Allentown hires 11 police officers ahead of expected retirement wave (Morning Call: Oct. 9, 2020)
- Philly police to start flagging 911 calls that involve a behavioral health crisis
(WHYY: Oct. 9, 2020)
- 'It shouldn't be us vs. them': Lehigh County police, communities of color both feel pain, have to work together for same goal, panel says (MorningCall: Oct. 6, 2020)
- Bethlehem's New Police Chief Michelle Kott
(MorningCall: Sept. 24, 2020)
- Mark Pinsley: Alternative 911 system may save money and lives
(Morning Call: July 26, 2020)
Also see these stories about CAHOOTS and other 911 alternatives.
- Bethlehem Police - 2019 Report on Use of Force
(PDF: 16-page detailed report, July 13, 2020)
- Video of Allentown police officer kneeling on man's neck: Woman who took it says she was shocked, and George Floyd’s attorney weighs in (MorningCall: July 12, 2020)
- Bethlehem residents pressure council for bold police reforms, including defunding the department (MorningCall, July 8, 2020)
- Bethlehem residents urge council to push for 'real' reforms, like defunding the police
(LehighValleyLive: July 8, 2020)
- Protests begin to call for 'defunding the police:' What does that mean in Allentown?
(WFMZ: July 8, 2020)
- Lt. Gov. Fetterman: Pennsylvania police reform should focus on de-escalation
(MorningCall: July 8, 2020)
- Bethlehem Creates a Community Advisory Board
(WLVT: July 6, 2020)
- Allentown Police Department releases full use-of-force policy
(Morning Call: July 2, 2020)
- APD Use of Force Policy
(Posted July 2, 2020)
- Police reimagined: The future of public safety Four-part series of half-hour podcasts.
(WHYY: June-July 2020 - interviews with Chris Norris)
- Bethlehem releases police department's use-of-force policy, Allentown's expected soon (WFMZ: June 16, 2020)
- Movement afoot to reform Allentown, Bethlehem police departments, make use-of-force policies public (Morning Call: June 17, 2020)
- Bethlehem Police - Use of Force Policy
(PDF - posted June 17, 2020)
- Allentown Police Chief speaks on protests and police reform (WLVR interview with Chief Glen Granitz, Part 1: June 15, 2020)
- Allentown Police Chief speaks on protests and police reform (WLVR interview with Chief Glen Granitz, Part 2: June 16, 2020)
- Movement afoot to reform Allentown, Bethlehem police departments, make use-of-force policies public (MorningCall: June 13, 2020)
- Firing bad cops is harder in Pennsylvania because of a law that ties the courts' hands (MorningCall: June 14, 2020)
Also, see what else is happening in other states.
Response to COVID-19 Pandemic:
- As counties reopen, what about the correctional facilities inside their borders?
(WHYY: May 15, 2020)
- Courts are using technology to keep wheels of justice moving in the Lehigh Valley, but 'horrible backlog' looms (MorningCall: 5/9/2020)
- Small Business Owners with Criminal Records Shut Out of Aid Programs
(PBS: Apr. 21, 2020)
- Lehigh County judicial emergency extended through end of May, courthouse to remain closed to the public (MorningCall: Apr. 22, 2020)
- Staff member at Northampton County juvenile facility tests positive for COVID-19 (MorningCall: Apr. 21, 2020)
- Philly jails face new federal lawsuit: Fix dangerous coronavirus conditions or release at-risk people (BillyPenn: April 20, 2020) Ten plaintiffs are seeking a class-action case on behalf of roughly 4,000 incarcerated at county facilities
- Philly judge denies all emergency motions to release prisoners during coronavirus pandemic (WHYY: April 15, 2020)
- Pennsylvania prisons report first inmate death of coronavirus; two more Northampton County Jail inmates test positive (MorningCall, Apr. 13)
- 'I don't want to die in here': inmates talk about conditions in Philly jails
(WHYY: Apr. 12, 2020)
- Governor Wolf Plans to Use Reprieve Powers to Deter COVID-19 Pandemic in Pennsylvania's Prisons (ACLU-PA: Apr. 10, 2020)
Also see this announcement from the Governor's Office.
Governor Wolf plans to release some 1,500 to 1,800 incarcerated people.
- Federal Court Ruling Frees Medically Vulnerable People From Immigration Detention
(ACLU-PA: Apr. 10, 2020)
- Lehigh Counnty judge outlines effort to stop outbreak in jail
(MorningCall: Apr. 10, 2020)
- Visits to state prisons cancelled indefinitely
(Apr. 10, 2020)
- Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association urges state lawmakers to help decide on freeing inmates (WGAL, Apr. 8, 2020)
- Why we need to release more inmates now
(Ettore Angelo, MorningCall Op-Ed, Apr. 8, 2020)
Pa. Supreme Court denies request to release children in juvenile facilities during coronavirus pandemic (MorningCall: Apr. 8, 2020)
- Federal district court orders the immediate release of 22 people in civil immigration detention in two county jails (ACLU: Apr. 7, 2020)
- Northampton County Jail on lockdown after two employees test positive for COVID-19 (Morning Call, Apr. 5, 2020)
- Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rejection of Emergency Request to Reduce County Jail Populations During COVID-19 Crisis (ACLU-PA: Apr. 3, 2020) But the Court does require the President Judge in each county to take action to protect vulnerable incarcerated people.
- Northampton County Jail moves some inmates; building prepped as coronavirus field hospital (Morning Call: Apr. 2, 2020)
- Juvenile justice group asks Pa. courts to send home youth in detention during pandemic (Morning Call: Apr. 1, 2020)
- Outbreak causing state prisons to 'completely recalibrate' reentry (Morning Call, Apr. 1, 2020)
- In petition on behalf of Lehigh County inmate and others, ACLU urges state Supreme Court to clear jails during coronavirus pandemic (Morning Call, Mar. 30, 2020)
This story includes updates on Lehigh and Northampton County Jails.
- Pa. DOC reports first COVID-19 case among incarcerated population at SCI Phoenix
(WHYY, March 29, 2020)
- Pennsylvania corrections officers, advocates worry a prison coronavirus outbreak is inevitable (Spotlight PA, Mar. 28, 2020)
- Immigrant detainees stage hunger strike at York County Prison
(WHYY, Mar. 28, 2020)
- Despite Risk of Spreading Virus, Judges Continue to Impose Cash Bail in Pennsylvania (TheAppeal, Mar. 19, 2020)
- Advocates call on state to reduce inmate population amid coronavirus outbreak
(PA Post, Mar. 19, 2020)
- Protecting Public Health in Allegheny County: Release and Divert People from Allegheny County Jail to Fight the Spread of the Coronavirus (Abolitionist Law Center, Mar. 15, 2020)
- ACLU prison policy project on what some counties have done
(ACLU: March 2020)
- Pa. state prison system turning to video chats to keep people connected during pandemic (WHYY: Mar. 17, 2020)
Also, see the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections website for details:
- Philly DA Krasner: Curb low-level arrests to slow spread of coronavirus
(WHYY: Mar. 16, 2020)
- Crowded conditions, close contact behind bars complicate public health challenge
(WHYY: Mar. 14, 2020)
- Pa. Corrections Dept. takes steps to stop spread of coronavirus at prisons
(WHYY: Mar. 13, 2020) Also see the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections website for current information:
Also, see what else is happening in other states.
Probation and Parole Reform:
- Replace Pennsylvania's costly probation system with real second chances
(PhillyInquirer: Feb. 21, 2020)
- Probation and parole reform would save Pennsylvania millions
(MorningCall: Feb. 8, 2020)
- The state of probation reform in Pennsylvania
(ACLU: Jan. 24, 2020)
- Governor Wolf Joins Business and Entertainment Leaders to Announce National Criminal Justice Reform Organization (January 23, 2019)
- Pa. lawmakers want fewer people on probation; here's how other states are doing it.
(Ron Southwick, Pennlive, Jan. 16, 2020)
- Pa. lawmakers hope to pass probation reform bill this year but some differ on putting
caps on sentences. (Ron Southwick, Pennlive, Jan. 16, 2020)
- 'Perpetual Probation': Changing a system that critics say wastes taxpayer money and wrecks lives. (Ron Southwick, Pennlive, Jan. 16, 2020)
- What if the probation office was a place of joy instead of fear? New York City shows how.
(PhillyInquirer: Jan. 10, 2020)
- Jailed for weeks or months with no hearing, no bail and no hope? It's routine for people on probation. (PhillyInquirer: Dec. 27, 2019)
- Gov. Wolf signs county probation and parole reform bills (SB500 and SB501)
(TimesLeader: Dec. 21, 2019)
- SB-500 (Signed by Gov. Wolf: Dec. 21, 2020) Amends Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) Law, providing for County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee (under PCCD), to oversee grant funding to county probation and parole and intermediate punishment programs.
- SB-501 (Signed by Gov. Wolf: Dec. 21, 2020) Includes provisions on probation and parole "reform" and intermediate punishment. SB-501 was opposed by the ACLU-PA. (See this commentary.)
- Gov. Wolf, National Advocates Push for a Fairer Probation System
(Nov. 18, 2019)
- Punishing Addiction: 'I went to state prison for missing two probation appointments'
(PhillyInquirer: Oct. 24, 2019)
- The Probation Trap: Lenient sentences in Pennsylvania often have harsh consequences
(PhillyInquirer: Oct. 24, 2019)
- Reforming the Pa. probation system: It's time to stop 'paying for failure,' advocates say. (Ron Southwick, Pennlive, Sep 24, 2019)
- Probation in Pennsylvania keeps people trapped in the cycle of incarceration
(PennLive: June 26, 2019)
- Probation reforms pushed by Pennsylvania senators seeking savings, fairness
(Morning Call: Jan. 29, 2019)
- Pennsylvania Probation Under Scrutiny
(Riley Yates, The Morning Call, June 10, 2018)
- More Probation violations cost woman jail time
(Riley Yates, The Morning Call, June 16, 2018)
Also see Probation and Parole Reform resources.
Fair Commutation, Not Mass Incarceration
PA Board of Pardons needs more compassion
- District judge questions how Bethlehem treats minor marijuana offenses (Morning Call: Dec. 16. 2019)
- Activists travel to Harrisburg to end life sentences (NorthwesternPress: Nov. 13, 2019)
Story and photos of Lehigh Valley folks going to CADBI rally and lobby day in Harrisburg on Oct. 23, 2019.
- 13 corrections employees at Schuylkill County prison suspended after inmate dies
(Morning Call: Nov. 17, 2019)
- Lawyers volunteer to help people with criminal records land jobs in model Montgomery County program (Morning Call: July 7, 2019)
- Your View: Lehigh County has been in forefront of bail reform - Op-Ed by Jim Martin, Heather Gallagher, and Maureen McManus (Morning Call: May 5, 2019)
- Your View: Cash bail system penalizes poor and costs taxpayers - Op-Ed by Julie Thomases (Morning Call: April 14, 2019)
- Tina Hamilton's Valley Workplaces: The power of a second chance
(Morning Call: March 6, 2019)
- To stem opioid crisis, police in Carbon County can now send some offenders to treatment instead of jail (Morning Call: March 8, 2019)
- Reducing recidivism makes our communities safer (philly.com: Feb. 22, 2019)
commentary by Josh Shapiro, PA Attorney General.
- Lehigh Valley sees major drops in serious crime in 2018; Allentown's numbers may be lowest in decades (Morning Call: Feb. 1, 2019)
- Wolf signs criminal justice reform bills into law (Daily Local News, Oct. 27, 2018)
- Northampton County: Judge Zito - accused of improperly pressuring defendants to plead guilty
- Defense attorney files motion criticizing county judge, asks for his recusal
(Riley Yates, Morning Call: Oct. 22, 2018)
- Judge, lawyer clash over courtroom allegations of strong-arming defendants
(Riley Yates, Morning Call: Oct. 30, 2018)
- Northampton County judge recuses himself from case, calls motion against him 'yellow journalism' (Riley Yates, Morning Call: Nov. 1, 2018)
- Readers React: Judge Zito improves Northampton County criminal court system (Morning Call: Nov. 1, 2018)
- Changes in PA Prison Policies for Mail, Books, and Visitors
In September 2019, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) instituted new restrictive polices on mail, books, and visitors in state prisons in response to the drug crisis.
On October 19, responding to public protest, the DOC announced changes to some of the offensive policies listed in this on-line petition to Governor Wolf and described in news reports (below). A summary of recent DOC policy changes is posted here, and there is additional information linked to the DOC homepage: www.cor.pa.gov.
- Why are so many Pa. prison inmates committing suicide? (philly.com: Oct. 9, 2018)
- Report pans life without parole in Pennsylvania (Riley Yates, Morning Call, Sept. 21, 2018)
- Jail to Jobs: A place to call home [Lazarus House] (Morning Call: Sept. 17, 2018)
- Sept. 12, 2018 Lehigh County Board of Commissioners meeting with EMI presentation about ending cash bail and response.
- With new proposal, trauma-informed care could become standard in Pa. schools
(WHYY: Sept. 4, 2018)
Breaking the "pipeline to prison": a proposal by Senators Vincent Hughes and Pat Browne for "trauma-informed system education" in PA, including a requirement that all teachers, school board members, and school employees "with direct contact with students" receive trauma-informed training. For further reading, see Lancaster County ACEs & Resilience Connection.
- Despite promises to do better, Pennsylvania continues to jail the mentally incompetent
(Riley Yates, The Morning Call, July 28, 2018)
- Pennsylvania's bail system keeps poor people in jail
(Riley Yates, Peter Hall, The Morning Call, July 20, 2018)
- Behind Erie's falling violent crime, signs of an initiative's success
(GoErie: July 15, 2018)
- Despite new resentencing guidelines, juvenile lifers still getting long prison terms
(philly.com, Morning Call: July 16, 2018)
- Video documentary: American Jail:
- Oscar-winning Easton filmmaker visits hometown prison in new movie
(Express-Times, June 22, 2018)
- Easton native Roger Ross Williams talks about latest film, 'American Jail' (Morning Call, July 2, 2018)
- Pa. Task Force Report: Changes to death penalty suggested (The Morning Call, June 25, 2018)
- Clean Slate Act becomes law:
- Jail to Jobs: Women's prison has a vision for success
(Laurie Mason Schroeder, The Morning Call, June 17, 2018)
- Can the rural prison economy survive the era of decarceration?
by Samantha Melamed (philly.com, June 7; Morning Call, June 11, 2018)
- Court Fees Pile up, Imperiling the Poor
(Riley Yates, The Morning Call, May 13, 2018)
The Probation Trap - (Philadelphia Inquirer series - 2019)
- "Everyone is Detained" (Dec. 27, 2019)
How probation detainers can keep people locked up indefinitely - even when they haven't committed a crime.
- "Living in Fear" (Oct. 24, 2019)
Probation is meant to keep people out of jail. But intense monitoring leaves tens of thousands across the state at risk of incarceration.
- "Judges Rule" (Oct. 24, 2019)
When it comes to probation, Pennsylvania has left judges unchecked to impose wildly different versions of justice.
- "Pushing Addiction" (Oct. 24, 2019)
Courts recognize addiction is a disease. Yet, for people on probation, they continue punishing relapse with prison
- "The Marijuana Paradox" (Oct. 24, 2019) Philadelphia has decriminalized marijuana, but those who get high on probation still risk incarceration.
- Reports on Criminal Justice by Samantha Melamed (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Pennsylvania Lawmakers Move to Strip Reformist Prosecutor Larry Krasner of Authority (the Intercept: 7/8/2019)
- Larry Krasner's Campaign to End Mass Incarceration (New Yorker: Oct. 29, 2018)
Philadelphia's District Attorney reinvents the role of the modern prosecutor.
- Larry Krasner's first year as Philly DA: Staff turnover, fewer cases, plenty of controversy (philly.com: Jan. 6, 2019)
- Philadelphia will stop keeping a portion of defendants' bail (Reading Eagle: Oct. 11, 2018)
- Phila. Courts Revoke Policy Allowing It to Retain 30 Percent of Cash Bail Deposit
(law.com: Oct. 10, 2018)
- Philadelphia's New Top Prosecutor Is Rolling Out Wild, Unprecedented Criminal Justice Reforms (portside.org Mar. 29, 2018)
- Philadelphia City Council Resolution to End Cash Bail
(phillymag.com, Feb. 2, 2018)
- Larry Krasner (Philadelphia District Attorney): prosecutors will no longer seek cash bail for people accused of some misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies
(philly.com, Feb. 21, 2018)
- Philadelphia economic impact study: the city could save $75 million a year by ending cash bail and sending thousands of people arrested each year for nonviolent, low-level crimes home to await their court dates. (theappeal.org, Oct. 26, 2017)
Letters to the Editor
- Let's cut Lehigh County Jail phone charges (Robert Walden, Morning Call, Mar. 14, 2020)
- DA Rarely Makes Cash Bail Recommendations (Jim Martin, Feb. 25, 2020)
- Cash bail can push people over edge financially (Naomi Winch, Feb. 21, 2020)
- Your View: Money Buys Freedom; Poverty Buys a Jail Cell - Op-Ed by Ed Angelo
(Morning Call: Nov. 17, 2019)
Readers React: Lehigh County's decision to review cash bail policies encouraging
(My Lien Nguyen, Sept. 27, 2018)
- Support efforts to help mentally ill (Joan Kistler: Aug. 5, 2018)
- Lehigh needs bail reform (Cecilia Eberhard: Aug. 1, 2018)
Lehigh County Jail
- Man dies at Lehigh County corrections center, authorities say (Morning Call: Dec. 31, 2018)
- Authorities: Former Lehigh County Jail nurse charged in sex assault with inmate
(Morning Call: Oct. 3, 2017)
- Authorities: Inmate at Lehigh County jail found dead
(Morning Call: June 26, 2017)
- Inmate at Lehigh County Jail dies; autopsy to be performed
(Morning Call: July 24, 2015)
- Jail medical care not cause of inmate's death, Lehigh County jury rules
(Morning Call: March 27, 2015)
- Former Lehigh County jail doctor gets 3 1/2 years in prison for cheating taxpayers
(Morning Call: April 20, 2015)
- Lehigh County jail prisoner grieivance (Lehigh Valley IWW: Sept. 12, 2015)
- Families blame Lehigh County Jail inmates' deaths on staff
(Morning Call: Nov. 23, 2014)
- Cellmate: Ex-prison doc talked about shooting judge (Morning Call: July 22, 2014)
[Note: Lehigh County jail contracts for medical services with PrimeCare]
PrimeCare Medical Inc., contract audit - Northampton County (Nov. 25, 2015)
- Inmate hangs himself in Lehigh County Prison cell, officials say
(LehighValleyLive: January 17, 2014)
- No charges in Lehigh County inmate's death following seizure, being placed in restraint chair
(LehighValleyLive: August 8, 2013)
- Court Case:Charles Shumanis v. Lehigh County Warden Dale Miesel, Warden Janine Donate, Sergeant Eric Saborsky, Sergant Ronald March, Correction Office Eric Nowicki
Judicial decision Jan. 18, 2017, regarding jail incident on Nov. 16, 2012.
- Janine Donate resigned as Warden of Lakawanna County prison in 2010, and subsequently was hired as Warden of Lehigh County Jail.
For other resources, see POWER Lehigh Valley - End Mass Incarceration