Brian Burick was elected prison board president.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- The Lawrence County Prison Board is setting a standard for how inmates will be sent for medical treatment.
Lawrence County Common Pleas Court President Judge Ralph Pratt questioned the jail warden's handling of a problem with Robert Semler, a 78-year-old New Castle man being held on $500 bond for a criminal trespass charge.
Semler was taken to Ellwood City Hospital for psychiatric evaluation earlier this month after county Commissioner Roger DeCarbo instructed a nurse from the Lawrence County Agency on Aging to check on Semler in the jail.
Semler was arrested Dec. 31 for refusing to leave the Lawrence County Government Center. He had been barred from the building after throwing a toothbrush at a county commissioner earlier in the month and faces charges of disrupting public meetings and disorderly conduct.
The nurse advised jail officials that Semler should be taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.
At issue: Judge Pratt questioned why Warden William Hall approached a district justice to have Semler's bond revoked or have him furloughed from custody before he was sent to the hospital.
Judge Pratt noted that an inmate can be released from jail only if the district attorney or a defense attorney petitions the court.
Hall said he has been instructed by past prison board members to go to a district justice and ask that an inmate be released without bond or furloughed when they need medical attention to avoid having the county pay that person's medical bills. The county is responsible for medical costs when someone is a jail inmate.
District Attorney Matthew Mangino said he was contacted by the warden concerning the matter, but would not agree to petition the court to release him without bond.
"In general, when we believe someone is a threat to other people or a flight risk we won't approve it. We look at these on a case-by-case basis," he said. Mangino refused to speak specifically about Semler.
Prison board members agreed that in the future the jail warden should contact the district attorney or the inmate's attorney if they want to get the inmate's bond reduced or furloughed for medical care.
Other matters: In other business, county Commissioner Brian Burick was elected prison board president. Mary Ann Reiter, county controller, who was absent, was elected board secretary.
Board members agreed to continue meeting at noon the second Wednesday of each month. The board meets once each quarter in the jail and the other meetings are conducted in the commissioner's meeting room of the county government center.
Prison board members also agreed to promote four prison guards from part-time to full-time status. The newly promoted workers, Phyllis Krause, Ronald Tarnaski, Corjessa Rice and Floyd Jackson will be paid $10.75 per hour. Warden Hall noted that the jail is short-staffed and has approximately 19 openings for part-time workers.