LAWRENCE COUNTY Work-release program suspended to probe allegations
New Castle Police are investigating drug use at the jail.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- The work-release program at the Lawrence County Jail was suspended for 48 hours to allow officials to investigate drug use by inmates and other problems in the facility.
Lawrence County District Attorney Matthew Mangino petitioned the court Monday to temporarily suspend the program as of midnight Monday. President Judge Dominick Molto granted the request Monday afternoon.
"It's going to give us an opportunity to review the program. It will also give us an opportunity to talk with people who are on work release because there is a concern about contraband coming into the jail," he said.
There are 14 inmates in the county work-release program, Mangino said. The program allows inmates to work at their regular jobs throughout the day and then report back to the jail at night.
Police suspect a 21-year-old inmate was put into cardiac arrest Friday and later died after taking drugs. Authorities are still waiting for toxicology reports to confirm how George Crepp Jr., 21, of Ellwood City died. Crepp had been in jail since July 19 on a parole violation. He was not in the work-release program, according to jail officials.
Mary Ann Reiter, president of the county prison board, said two other inmates were taken to a hospital after Crepp's death to check for drugs. Reiter said one tested positive for opiates. No other details were available.
Mangino said another inmate was charged in March with possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance and criminal conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance. According to court records, Kent Rhodes offered another inmate crack cocaine in exchange for a gold necklace in late February 2004. The other inmate informed corrections officers of the offer and was told go through with the deal. He was given suspected crack cocaine, the court records said.
Police are also looking into another case of illegal drug use at the jail dating back to July 8, Police Chief Tom Sansone said. No charges have been filed and it is still under investigation, he said.
Warden Mark Fellows could not be reached to comment.
Mangino said he felt the 48-hour suspension of the work-release program was sufficient to investigate. The district attorney said he did not want to penalize people in the work-release program who have families to support.