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County prison balcony to be fenced

| Sunday, April 29, 2012, 11:48 a.m.

Work will soon begin to erect a fence at the Westmoreland County Prison to stave off suicide attempts by inmates jumping from the interior's second level.

Westmoreland County commissioners on Thursday approved a $46,000 contract with Allegheny Fence Construction Co. Inc. of Pittsburgh to put up the fencing around six units in the jail.

"We don't want anybody jumping off. It's an astronomical cost we don't have if someone jumps off," said Warden John Walton.

Balcony jumpers have cost the county about $1 million in medical bills over the last two years. Two unsuccessful suicide attempts, one in 2007 and another last year, resulted in inmates being hospitalized.

The inmates jumped from atop a railing on a second-floor housing unit and crashed down onto steel tables and the concrete floor.

Another inmate earlier this month took a 10-foot leap but landed on his feet. He did not require a hospital stay.

Last year, the county spent $20,000 to fence in two units at the jail, including the section where the two inmates previously attempted suicide.

County officials set aside about $50,000 this year to fence in the rest of the upper level of the two-story jail.

Walton said work could begin in a matter of days and take about a month to complete.

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