LAWRENCE COUNTY Jail hopes to turn away injured inmates
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County is trying to form a policy to identify inmates who need medical attention before they are jailed.
The tighter policy would stop any injured people from entering the county jail.
The county prison board met Wednesday to discuss an ongoing problem with the jail's sending inmates to the hospital emergency room during evening hours, costing overtime for county deputy sheriffs.
Sheriff Robert Clark asked county commissioners for $10,000 to replenish his overtime budget, which was depleted in July. Clark said his budget was on target for January through June, but an excessive number of late night trips to the hospital with inmates depleted the account last month.
County commissioners have not said if they will give Clark more money. The county is facing a $1.3 million deficit by year's end and commissioners have asked all departments to cut expenses.
The sheriff, however, said he cannot determine how many inmate transports he will have to make.
From June 28 to Aug. 3 deputies made 31 trips to the hospital on overtime. Two inmates were admitted and needed 24 hour sheriff's guards.
Clark said that when deputies are called after hours they are automatically paid for three hours' work under their current union contract. Any time above three hours is paid at a normal hourly overtime rate.
At a meeting on Friday, representatives from the company that provides medical care at the jail said the majority of injuries were suffered during arrest and inmates were taken to the jail without prior treatment.
Todd Haskins of PrimeCare Medical Services said two questionnaires used at other jails they service help keep those with prior injuries from entering. Officials said an injured inmate can be turned away before booking. In that case, police would have to take them to the hospital.
"Our solution is to try to screen them at the door as much as possible," Haskins said. "Once they are in the door, we've bought 'em."
Haskins said they have also started calling Jameson and Ellwood City hospitals to determine which facility has a shorter wait in the emergency room to help cut down on deputies' overtime.
Lawrence County President Judge Dominick Motto also agreed to look into a rule that requires deputy sheriffs to transport inmates to all court hearings. Clark said the arresting officer used to be responsible for transporting prisoners. Cutting back on that work would free his office to work different shifts and not work overtime in the evenings.
Clark said that now all 10 deputies are needed for daylight turn because of court transports.
In other business, the county prison board hired Joni Salzano of New Castle as a inmate counselor. She will work full time and be paid $9.70 per hour. Margaret Datillo of New Castle was hired as a part-time paralegal at $10 per hour. Warden Mark Fellows said a paralegal is employed to help inmates because the jail does not have a legal library.