Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark will serve as the interim chair of the Allegheny County Jail Oversight Board.
“We have to give the jail credit for the good things they do,” Clark said, adding that the board must also take a serious look at the jail’s shortcomings.
This includes issues that have been repeatedly raised by members of the public during jail board meetings, like the housing of transgender inmates or alleged incidents of inmate assaults, she said.
“I think we have to make a way for inmates who have been assaulted to safely report,” Clark said.
Safety of both guards and inmates will be a top priority, she said.
Clark said she will ultimately be responsible for appointing a permanent chair, but no timeline has been set.
The nine-member board meets monthly. It is comprised of the county chief executive, two county judges, county sheriff, county controller, county council president and three citizen representatives.
Cashman, who was on the board for about seven years and had been serving as chairman, left the board following two heated, back-to-back meetings.
He walked out of a special oversight board meeting July 29 that was scheduled specifically to meet with activists representing the transgender community.
Cashman again walked out of a regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 1 after about 45 minutes.
That meeting came to a halt as two activists — Ciora Thomas, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based advocacy group SisTersPGH, and Christian Carter, a community organizer from East Liberty — were removed and cited for disrupting the meeting.
“I appreciate the accomplishments that we have achieved in reducing the population of the Jail and the cost of its operation,” Cashman wrote in a resignation letter to Clark. “That being said, however, it would appear that I have become a lightning rod for the animosity directed at the Board by the individuals who purport to represent the transgender population of Allegheny County.”