A police officer and the city that employed him settled a federal civil rights claim brought by a woman who alleged that the officer sexually abused her. Pursuant to the June 10, 2013 settlement, Bristol Borough agreed to pay the woman $385,000 from a self-insurance pool. On the night of August 29, 2008, Joanne Cipressi…

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By Christopher Zoukis This week the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections was awarded one of nine “Improved Reentry Education (IRE)” awards of $1 million each from the US Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education. The program itself is mandated to support “demonstration projects in prisoner re-entry education that develop evidence of reentry…

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By Dan Clark Spending money on pre-kindergarten programs now will inevitably save the tax payers of Pennsylvania money in the long run when they are not paying as much to lock up criminals, according to a report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. To drive that point home on Wednesday, District Attorneys Risa Ferman, Montgomery…

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By David M. Reutter

Life in prison has always been far different than life in the free world. An investigation by the Pittsburgh-Gazette into the wages of Pennsylvania prison employees revealed one of those differences – an Alice-in-Wonderland quality to the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) pay scale.

Typically, an employee’s higher rank merits greater pay. Yet Pennsylvania prison guards, who occupy the bottom rung of the DOC’s employment ladder, are some of the state’s highest paid prison workers.

For example, of the 23 employees at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Pittsburgh who earned more than $100,000 in 2011, 21 were guards or sergeants. That same year, the best-paid captain at SCI Pittsburgh earned less than $88,000 while the top-paid lieutenant made $73,817. One guard, whose base pay was around $51,000, padded his income with leave pay, shift differentials and overtime to earn a total of $139,571. His overtime pay alone was approximately $75,000.

“That guy works every minute he can,” said David Mandella, local vice president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Association (PSCOA).

Of the $5.5 million in overtime paid at SCI Pittsburgh in 2011 – representing 17.3% of the prison’s total payroll – $4.9 million went to guards and sergeants. “[Overtime] costs have increased over the years to a current cost … of $50 million” systemwide, said DOC spokeswoman Susan McNaughton.

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U.S. Department of Education  Image courtesy csgjusticecenter.org

Correctional education is a fundamental component of rehabilitative programming offered in juvenile justice confinement facilities, most American prisons, and many jails and detention centers. Correctional populations are over-represented with individuals having below average levels of educational attainment—education “behind bars” presents an opportunity for the incarcerated to prepare for success upon release. A wide variety of administering entities operate correctional institutions in the United States, and a wide variety of organizations are the providers of onsite prison education programs. Various federal education programs have supported education in State and local prisons; and in 1991, an Office of Correctional Education (OCE) was created by the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act, to coordinate and improve these efforts to support educational opportunities in correctional settings. The OCE function currently resides in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL). While OCE has a unique coordinating role for correctional education, other administrative units within the Department of Education, support and oversee specific programs that are based in correctional facilities.

Federal Grant Programs – Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities

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By Christopher Zoukis

A former Pennsylvania prison guard who was convicted on 27 counts of abusing prisoners will serve no prison time of his own, after a state court sentenced him to five years’ probation and six months on house arrest.

Harry Nicoletti, 61, was convicted of numerous counts of official oppression, simple assault, criminal solicitation and terrorist threats, as well as three counts of indecent exposure. He was acquitted of more serious charges of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse and institutional sexual assault.

The jury reached its verdict after deliberating three days following an 11-day trial that included 58 witnesses, some of them prisoners who recanted their earlier statements against Nicoletti. Charges against four other prison guards had previously been dropped.

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge David Cashman could have sentenced Nicoletti to up to 18 months in prison, but instead told him, “I’m sparing you from the danger you posed to the individuals you were in charge of.”

Nicoletti was originally indicted on 117 criminal charges following his arrest in September 2011. He was accused of being the ringleader of a group of six guards at SCI Pittsburgh who targeted sex offenders and homosexual prisoners for abuse that included sexual assaults, beatings, tainting food with urine and feces, and other mistreatment. [See: PLN, Nov. 2012, p.40; April 2012, p.1]. “It was evil for evil’s sake,” said Allegheny County Assistant District Attorney Jon Pittman at Nicoletti’s March 27, 2013 sentencing hearing.

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