Pittsburgh: ACJ Inmates Raise Outcry Against Increased Repression During Pandemic

By Blake Garrison

Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) is notorious for its mistreatment of inmates. This year, its response to Covid-19, and its use of the pandemic as an excuse for abuse, has endangered lives and further dehumanized those imprisoned, many of whom have not been charged with crimes.

ACJ attempts to justify repressive policies like “visitation restrictions” and “isolation” as being necessary to protect the health of inmates. According to one recently released man who asked to remain anonymous, inmates are scapegoated to justify their mistreatment: “It’s not inmates. The inmates have all been quarantined. We’ve all been through it. We don’t have it. It’s the guards that are bringing it in, and they punish us for it. It’s not right.”

ACJ has one of the highest death rates in the country and the second highest rate of suicide. This November, the jail made local news for the still-unexplained death of a man named Daniel Pastorek, who was arrested for failing to appear in court, most likely because homelessness prevented a summons from reaching him.

This week, many former employees interviewed by ruling class media outlet Public Source condemned the jail’s endangerment of lives through overwork and understaffing of employees (particularly nurses), failure to provide medications, and a lack of mental health care. An inmate roused indignation when he circulated a video of his “dinner”: a tiny package of Teddy Grahams and a few slices of bologna spread with applesauce.

The former inmate confirmed to Tribune of the People: “The food is really bad. We don’t get enough food. There’s cockroaches running all through the kitchen. The food was so bad nobody would take trays! After everyone refused the sergeant brought a video camera to record all the inmates refusing to eat what was being served then we did not eat.”

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