Warden: Suicide handled correctly
SUNBURY - Warden Roy Johnson told Northumberland County Prison Board members Wednesday that staff acted quickly and appropriately when responding to last week's suicide of 27-year-old inmate Andrew W. Beers of Paxinos.
Johnson, who also commended county Coroner James F. Kelley for his handling of the death investigation, said the probe, which involved reviewing video footage, revealed no foul play. He reiterated Beers was alone in a two-man cell when he was found dead about 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13.
Upon being questioned by county President Judge Robert B. Sacavage, the warden said Beers was moved from an eight-man cell to a two-man cell the day before he hanged himself after making a request to be placed in "protective custody."
Johnson said Beers was on medication and had previously spent time in county and state prison for other offenses.
Sacavage expressed his sympathies to Beers' family and praised Johnson for keeping "good communications" with prison board members after the suicide was discovered. The judge encouraged prison board chairman and county commissioner Stephen Bridy to meet with Johnson, Kelley, District Attorney Tony Rosini, Sunbury police and state police to determine which law enforcement agency should investigate any future incidents.
"I just want to make sure issues like this will be properly dealt with in the future," Sacavage said.
Bridy agreed with Sacavage's recommendation, which was made in light of a decision by Sunbury police not to participate in the investigation. Kelley previously reported Sunbury police were not required by law to get involved.
Beers was found dead three weeks after he was incarcerated. He left behind what Kelley described as "two personal notes to loved ones." Beers' cellmate discovered his body after returning from recreation, Johnson said.
The warden said attempts by prison staff to revive Beers were unsuccessful.
Bridy, who requested a moment of silence for Beers during Wednesday's meeting, commended Johnson, operations commander Brian Wheary, Sgt. Joshua Lehman, Correctional Officers Evan Jamison, Andrew Quiles, Deb Zaleskie, Brandon Fox, Jason Greak, Joshua Shurock and Brett Ososkie, nurses Jamie Hess and Diane Reichert, and medical assistant Lorie Keister of PrimeCare Medical Inc., the county's contracted in-prison medical provider, for their assistance in dealing with the incident.
In other business
Johnson reported the prison is currently housing two inmates from Montour County and one each from Carbon and Snyder counties. He said the prison generated $5,920.14 in revenue last month by housing out-of-county prisoners, which is considerably lower than last year's July total of $34,741.79.
To date, the yearly revenue for housing out-of-county inmates stands at $116,903.99.
Johnson said he expects the prison to generate approximately $200,000 less revenue this year from housing out-of-county inmates.
He attributed the drastic revenue decrease to what he described as an exaggerated media report that claimed there was a MRSA epidemic at the prison, which concerned neighboring prison officials.
MRSA is a contagious staph bacteria that is potentially dangerous.
The warden said the current prison population is 228, including 185 males and 43 females.
Mary Ann Huber, a nurse involved in prison ministry through Christ Wesleyan Church in Milton who was introduced to the prison board by Commissioner Richard Shoch, said she is willing to assist prison officials in implementing community outreach programs.
Huber said it will take a coordinated effort by volunteers from church and civic groups to operate therapeutic programs that can improve the prison climate and decrease recidivism.
Huber said she toured Pike County Prison with Shoch and Harry Davis, a retired drug and alcohol counselor from SCI-Muncy, to witness some of its programs that help inmates. She said Warden Craig Lowe has been able to reduce recidivism at Pike County Prison, which houses about 300 inmates, from 70 to 10 percent.
Prison board members said they looked forward to working with Huber.
A 35-minute executive session was held at the beginning of the meeting to discuss litigation and other privileged information.