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Offenders program readmits woman

| Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2001, 12:00 p.m.

An Allegheny County judge held an alternative housing facility in contempt of court Tuesday for refusing to readmit a woman and ordered it to reinstate her immediately.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning fined the Program for Female Offenders Inc. $1,000, with an additional $1,000 for every day the program fails to comply.

Elizabeth Brooke Garbisch, 20, of Chatham Lane, Fox Chapel, will be reinstated without delay, said Bob Potter, an attorney representing the program, which has a contract with Allegheny County to provide job training and counseling to women convicted of nonviolent crimes.

Garbisch did not attend yesterday's hearing. Her attorney, Joseph A. Paletta, would not say where she was being held. Attempts to reach Garbisch at her home were not successful.

After the hearing, Carol A. Hertz, the program's executive director, said Manning's ruling could harm the privately funded organization's independence.

'This could be disastrous to community corrections,' she said. 'It totally compromises our integrity.'

The controversy stems from the program's refusal to follow a July 11 order by Manning that Garbisch be readmitted to the Oakland-based program.

Garbisch was dismissed from the program and returned to the Allegheny County Jail when she allegedly violated rules by providing her urine to another inmate for urinalysis.

Manning found that Garbisch was under duress when she provided the urine sample and said evidence showed the inmates coerced and intimidated her.

Potter refuted Garbisch's coercion claim.

'Here's a young woman from Fox Chapel, she gets put in jail for a week and suddenly decides she was coerced' to give the urine sample.

Manning said he was not 'toying' with the program's administrative process and that issues such as alternative housing fell within a county judge's discretion.

Garbisch pleaded guilty before Manning on May 23 to drunken driving, failure to heed a stop sign, reckless driving and two counts of reckless endangerment after her car slammed into another vehicle at Dorseyville and Browns Hill roads in O'Hara Township on May 14, 2000.

Manning sentenced her to 90 days to one year in jail, with permission for alternative housing, and imposed 25 hours of community service.

In addition to fining her $350, Manning ordered Garbisch to undergo drug and alcohol evaluation, and out-patient substance abuse treatment.

Joseph D. Wilcox can be reached at jwilcox@tribweb.com or (412) 391-8793.

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