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Shuman Juvenile Detention Center will get 32 new cameras

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By Bobby Kerlik
Thursday, May 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Allegheny County plans to install 32 new cameras throughout Shuman Juvenile Detention Center to strengthen security involving assault allegations.

County Manager William McKain said Wednesday that he approved spending $50,000 to buy the cameras on the recommendation of Allegheny County police, which reviewed security measures at the Lincoln-Lemington facility.

Shuman houses 52 juveniles and has 65 cameras, said county spokeswoman Amie Downs. McKain said the new cameras will fill in blind spots.

McKain recently shifted Shuman security guards under the authority of county police since releasing a March report citing staff concerns about security, morale and day-to-day operations. A Shuman guard is awaiting trial on charges he assaulted an inmate there in January.

“It is a juvenile detention center, and the safety of residents is paramount,” McKain said.

McKain said he hopes to have the new cameras installed by the end of June.

Westmoreland County Regional Youth Services Center has 70 to 80 cameras and 20 beds.

“The kids know and the staff know they're being watched,” interim director Rich Gordon said. “Literally, about 99 percent of the facility is maintained by video surveillance with the exception of bathrooms and bedrooms.”

Erie County's Edmund Thomas Adolescent Center has 25 cameras and 20 beds.

“We rely on cameras to protect our staff and inmates,” said John Daley, who heads the center. “A child may act out and then deny it. It's also clearly a tool for management to observe staff behavior.”Cameras don't see everything.

James Donis, a former major at the Allegheny County Jail who was fourth-in-command, pleaded guilty in October in federal court to beating inmate Gary W. Barbour in April 2010 and later falsifying reports to cover it up. The jail has cameras, but none captured the beating.

A jury in January convicted former state prison guard Harry Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis on 27 of 80 counts that he abused inmates at the Woods Run lockup. The jury cleared him of more serious sex charges. In December, a jury found former prison guard Tory Kelly, 41, of Aliquippa guilty of threatening and assaulting an inmate. No camera footage of the incidents existed, although the prison has camera surveillance.

Former Shuman guard Ronald White, 43, of Braddock, is awaiting trial on charges that he assaulted a 16-year-old inmate in January by hitting the inmate's head into a metal doorframe using his forearm. White is attempting to get his job back. A camera documented that incident.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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