Lackawanna County Prison solitary confinement policy may get outside review


The Times Tribune

The Lackawanna County Prison’s policy on solitary confinement may undergo an outside review soon.

The Lackawanna County Prison’s policy on solitary confinement may undergo an outside review soon.

In response to a question from policy reform advocate Lizz Parsons, county Judge James Gibbons said prison board members have discussed an outside review and may hire someone within a couple of months. Gibbons is the board chairman.

“I can’t give you a hard date right now, hopefully within the next couple of months,” he said during a recent board meeting.

Gibbons said the outside reviewer may be Raymond Colleran, the county prison warden from 1981 to 1989. Colleran left the job in 1989 to work for the state prison system. He eventually rose to superintendent of the state prison at Waymart.

Parsons is part of a group of people who mounted a petition drive last year to put the question of solitary confinement on the November ballot. They submitted petitions with 13,000 signatures. The proposal by PA Stands Up would allow solitary confinement if “a licensed medical or behavioral health professional” has determined an inmate “poses a danger to themselves or other inmates, detainees or employees.” Involuntary confinement would be limited to no longer than 24 hours.

The county Board of Elections voted in August to reject placing the matter on the ballot, arguing state law controls matters of safety and discipline and the county couldn’t make its own rules.

PA Stands Up challenged the decision in county court. A panel of judges did not have a hearing on the matter until Oct. 21, which effectively thwarted the effort to put the matter on the ballot last November.

The group modified its petition and attempted to use the same petitions to get the question on the May 16 primary election ballot, but the panel of judges ruled they had to start over. The group appealed. In March, a Commonwealth Court judge upheld the county court’s ruling and said PA Stands Up didn’t appeal the elections board’s decision in time.

Ashleigh Strange, a PA Stands Up spokeswoman, said the group has appealed to the state Supreme Court but has not heard anything further.