Inmate death protocol adopted at Northumberland County Prison
SUNBURY - New inmate death protocol were passed Wednesday morning by the Northumberland County Prison Board that detail what prison officials should do in the event of an unnatural death.
The procedures were unanimously passed by five attending members of the board, but there was little discussion about the details during the public meeting.
Following the meeting, Chairman Stephen Bridy said this is the first time there is any official direction in the event of an inmate's death that does not occur under medical supervision and/or of natural causes.
The move to establish protocols was prompted by the suicide of 27-year-old inmate Andrew W. Beers, of Paxinos, on Aug. 13. He was found dead inside his two-man cell from an apparent hanging.
A copy of the protocols were provided to The News-Item by Bridy following the meeting.
Each inmate death must be reported to the prison warden or the officer in charge, and the chief of police or officer in charge at the Sunbury Police Department will be asked to report to the prison to secure a crime scene.
A crime scene is any location within the prison wherein an inmate has died with the exception of natural causes or under medical supervision.
The warden or officer in charge must then notify the coroner and the district attorney. The coroner will confer with the district attorney and the city police to determine the type and manner of investigation, if any, to follow.
The district attorney will then notify the members of the prison board of the death, and an investigation will begin.
The coroner and district attorney will decide when to release the crime scene back to the warden.
An investigation is required on every inmate death that is not from natural causes, and an autopsy is requested in these cases.
The city police did not respond to Beers' suicide, resulting in a disagreement between city and county officials, but they agreed to provide assistance to the prison when asked to do so by the coroner.
The motion to accept the protocols was made and seconded by Bridy and District Attorney Tony Rosini. It was passed 5-0 with Bridy, Rosini, President Judge Robert Sacavage, Commissioner Rick Shoch and Controller Tony Phillips voting in favor of it. Commissioner Vinny Clausi and Sheriff Chad Reiner were not present at the meeting.
In other business, Warden Roy Johnson said the netting that was placed around the top of the prison walls is helping to keep out contraband and prevent inmates from throwing objects over the walls.
"It's making things interesting. The inmates are not very happy about it, but it's working," he said.