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Pa. prison board considers new policy for suicidal inmates

The policy would lay out actions COs should take if he or she believes an inmate may attempt suicide


A county jail lieutenant got approval to create a policy laying out actions COs should take if an inmate is suicidal

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Mark Pesto
The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

SOMERSET, Pa. – A Somerset County Jail lieutenant got approval Tuesday from the Somerset County Prison Board to create a policy laying out the actions a correctional officer should take if he or she thinks a jail inmate may attempt suicide.

Lt. Brian Pelesky told the members of the board during Tuesday’s meeting that the jail does not formally have such a policy.

“The jail currently does not have a policy stating the proper steps that need to be taken by a correctional officer if they feel that an inmate is a risk for suicide, and once they report that, what steps need to be taken – like, the documentation on the boards, and stuff like that,” Pelesky said. “Right now, it’s all verbal.”

Pelesky said he will draft the policy this week and circulate the draft for feedback. The board is expected to vote on whether to approve the policy at its next meeting on April 2.

Also during Tuesday’s Prison Board meeting, two Somerset County Jail correctional officers who Pelesky said prevented an inmate from committing suicide on Jan. 28 were commended for their quick reactions.

Officers Nicole Tinkey and Bryan Zborovancik received commendation letters that were read aloud Tuesday by Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser, Somerset County’s district attorney and president of the prison board. Lazzari-Strasiser said the officers’ “speedy reaction, response and recourse undoubtedly saved the life of this person, who was probably seconds from death.”

“The county is fortunate to have an individual of your caliber and character on the Somerset County Jail team,” Lazzari-Strasiser told both Tinkey and Zborovancik.


©2019 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)

“Assessment is not a one-time event, but a process that should be ongoing throughout the at-risk patient’s incarceration.”
“He needs competent mental healthcare. Surely the prison can find a place to put him where he is not a danger to himself or others,” the inmate’s attorney said
A state investigation found that jailers failed to check on Dean Stewart, 50, three times in the 24 hours leading up to his death
Since Jan. 1, nine inmates have died by suicide, with suspected staff shortages largely to blame