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NCCHC begins review of fatalities, site visit planned for November


Last updated 10/12/2022 at 8:37pm

The team from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) has begun its contracted review of fatalities at the Allegheny County Jail. The county and NCCHC agreed to a review in August, with NCCHC providing consulting and technical assistance.

Following the execution of the contract last month, the NCCHC began its review of documentation. In early November, NCCHC will also bring a team to the jail. The full review includes a multi-disciplinary team of physicians, behavioral health experts, and correctional policy and security experts.

NCCHC’s origins date to the early 1970s, when an American Medical Association study of jails found inadequate, disorganized health services and a lack of national standards. In collaboration with other organizations, the AMA established a program that in 1983 became an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization: National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC).

The jail contracted with the National Center for Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) to conduct a suicide abatement audit in 2019 and had the NCCHC return to the facility in 2022 to gauge the jail’s progress.

The 2019 audit made a number of recommendations that the jail has since implemented. The jail no longer issues linens, but provides all individuals committed to the facility with two suicide-resistant blankets. These blankets are heavier and cannot be used as ligatures. The jail has completed seven suicide-resistant cells to take the place of the restraint chair and leg restraints. These cells are padded and do not contain any ligature points. The jail has added additional mirrors to eliminate blind spots and strategically relocated staff in the dayrooms on the pods to increase interaction with the incarcerated population. Since 2019, there has been only one suicide in the facility.

Additionally, the jail currently utilizes multiple tactics inside the facility to reinforce its commitment to prevention. Visual media like posters and employee hallway television monitors describe the signs of suicidal behavior and remind staff members of the appropriate actions to take when an incarcerated individual is displaying those behaviors. The NCCHC completed its return site visit in August 2022 and the jail is awaiting the results of the report to take further action to enhance its suicide prevention techniques.

As announced in August, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald had conversations with members of the General Assembly about introducing legislation to create County Jail Review Panels. A co-sponsorship memo for legislation drafted by Senator Jay Costa was distributed to members of the Pennsylvania Senate on September 30, inviting them to join him in co-sponsoring the bill that would create a process for review of fatalities in county jails.


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