Contraband in Allegheny County Jail 'ongoing battle,' officials say
County officials acknowledge that drugs and other contraband pervade the Allegheny County Jail but say they are working to fix the problem.
“Obviously, this is the culture in jails across the country,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. “It's one of those ongoing battles.”
County detectives discovered two 5-inch sharpened metal objects hidden in the soles of inmate Ronald Robinson's shoes on Wednesday when they searched his cell after guards found him unresponsive hours before the scheduled start of his homicide trial. Robinson is charged with the Dec. 6, 2009, fatal shootings of Officer Michael Crawshaw, 32, and Danyal Morton, 40, of Penn Hills.
Robinson, 35, was hospitalized in UPMC Mercy, Uptown, where doctors found marijuana in his system. They could not say, however, why he collapsed.
On Thursday, deputies took Robinson from the hospital to the Municipal Court Building, Downtown, for arraignment on a new charge of possessing a weapon or implements for escape.
Patrick Thomassey, one of the lawyers representing Robinson, said contraband in the jail is commonplace.
“Everybody in that jail has a shank, and they keep it next to their marijuana,” he said.
County officials said they plan to make changes at the jail to reduce contraband — although they would not specify what they intend to do.
“We're looking into putting procedures in place to try to prevent it,” Fitzgerald said.
Chuck Mandarino, a corrections officer and president of the Allegheny County Prison Employees Independent Union, did not return calls.
Warden Orlando Harper said he has been on the job for 30 days — not long enough to know which contraband is a widespread problem. He declined to answer questions about how Robinson came to have marijuana in his system, but said he is “absolutely” looking into it.
“I'm going to do everything in my power to deter contraband coming in,” Harper said.
Jail employees search prisoners when they arrive and search mail before distributing it. They search visitors and ask everyone entering the jail to walk through a metal detector, although that is not fail-safe.
In June, police accused Ambridge attorney Michael F. Yagercik of bringing marijuana, tobacco and other contraband into the jail.
Ron McAndrew, a former warden who spent 20 years working for the Florida Department of Corrections, said guards and other employees bring in about 75 percent of drugs; visitors bring the rest.
McAndrew said wardens across the country fight the “uphill battle.”
“It's a reality, but every administrator, if he or she is truly a professional, they don't accept it as a reality,” he said.
“They fight it 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Nurse who survived Ebola virus says Dallas hospital failed her
- Power play shines in Penguins’ home victory over Blue Jackets
- Penguins notebook: Pouliot dazzles in victory over Blue Jackets
- Steelers not limiting themselves in free agency
- Icy roads causing multiple accidents Sunday evening
- Pitt drops lead late, loses to Wake Forest
- Duquesne University football player died by suicide
- Pirates pitcher Worley is in right place, right time with team
- ALICE program aims to protect students from active shooter in school
- MLB notebook: Rockies select contract of former Pirates reliever Axford
- National Weather Service predicts up to 7 inches of snow before Sunday night