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Toomey ups private security after Capitol riot


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
April 23, 2021
Prison opt-outs, 'juvenile lifers,' private security, police review, election talk, open for business, and peak Pennsylvania. It's Friday. Next up? The weekend.
WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER: Support Spotlight PA and help us keep our essential investigative journalism available at no cost for everyone in Pennsylvania. Make a contribution of any amount now »»

More than 80% of correctional staff and officers who work in Pennsylvania prisons are not vaccinated or have not reported their vaccination status, Spotlight PA found, raising already high risks in the close-quarters of confinement.

An updated Department of Corrections dashboard shows that as of April 21, only 3,133 out of nearly 16,000 correctional staffers were fully or partially vaccinated. At facilities in Albion, Fayette, Pine Grove, and Smithfield, 90% of staff or more remained unvaccinated.

In contrast, out of 37,245 people incarcerated at the facilities, more than 50% have received a shot.

THE CONTEXT: Corrections spokesperson Maria Bivens said staff vaccinations are self-reported, meaning the number could be artificially low.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said unvaccinated staff put officers and their communities at risk — especially people in prison who either chose not to get vaccinated or are still waiting.

"If there’s a cadre of [corrections officers] in a given facility not vaccinated ... that workplace would still have a risk of COVID, just not emanating from the prisoners themselves," Adalja said.

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"I took your word that this is the only solution to this problem in the short term, please don't let me discover otherwise."

—Scranton Controller John Murray in a letter to Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti, who issued an emergency declaration because of a lack of IT staff
VACCINE UPDATE: The University of Pennsylvania has joined the list of colleges that will require students to be vaccinated in order to return to campus this fall. Meanwhile, a vaccine clinic at a West Virginia casino is welcoming out-of-staters. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» A LIVE GUIDE TO THE MAY PRIMARY: On Tuesday, May 4 at 5 p.m., join Spotlight PA as we break down the judicial candidates and four questions you’ll see on the primary ballot. RSVP FOR FREE
» BE PREPARED: Everyone — regardless of political affiliation — can vote May 18 on four ballot questions. Here's a breakdown of each one. Plus, WHYY has a great primer on the appellate court judge candidates. We'll have more resources in the days and weeks ahead.
Thanks, @elisaelvira7, for tagging us in this spring shot of Bryn Mawr. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
LIFE SENTENCE: The U.S. Supreme Court just made it easier to sentence juveniles convicted of murder to life in prison without parole, reversing past precedent that led to reevaluations, resentencings, and releases of "juvenile lifers" in Pennsylvania, the state with the nation's highest total. Here, fewer than 2% of those resentencings have resulted in a life sentence being reimposed, the New York Times reports.

PERSONAL PROTECTION: U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has spent $70,000 on private security since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which led the Republican to vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump. Citing FEC reports analyzed by Punchbowl News, Axios says lawmakers from both parties spent more on added security during the Trump administration

CASE REVIEW: Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's Tuesday murder conviction in the death of George Floyd prompted WHYY to examine the status of investigations and legal cases in four recent police killings of Black men in Philadelphia, some already years old and with homicide charges levied against the officers involved.

KEY PLAYER: The Capital-Star has an illuminating interview with state Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), a leading and influential voice in the state GOP's effort to reform Pennsylvania's voting laws after the 2020 election. The Q&A touches on Grove's November objections, Republican voter fraud, what he wants for the current reform push, and much more.

WE'RE OPEN: With support from a handful of Democrats, Republicans in the state House approved a bill this week that would allow small retailers to remain open during a disaster declaration, the AP reports. The legislation is a response to Gov. Tom Wolf's business closures during the pandemic and part of an ongoing debate about his executive powers
BIG LEAGUE: A streaming series based on the 1992 classic "A League of Their Own" will film in and around Pittsburgh. The 1940s-set Amazon Studios production is expected to start filming in early summer, per TribLIVE.

LOOK AT US: Speaking of tee-vee ... The director of HBO's Pennsylvania-set "Mare of Easttown" says the wardrobes are based on people in Wawa checkout lines. Be sure to add "Hollywood muse" to your resume.

MOUNTIES: A three-dimensional map of Pennsylvania I found on Reddit piqued my interest, and now I know that Somerset County can claim Pennsylvania's highest mountaintop, with Bedford County close behind.

HEAVY ROTATION: Fridays were made for hypnotic head-bobbers, and "Tha Juice" from Pittsburgh's own electronic soulstress Leila Rhodes comes highly recommended.

STAR STUFF: It may look like a photo of stars, but this is actually a photo of galaxies obtained by pointing the Hubble Telescope at the emptiest part of space for 10 days. Enjoy the weekend.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Influence

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., David I., Neal W., Elaine C., Bob R., Mary Ellen T., Susan D., Christopher R., Irene R., Yvette R., John C., Meg M., Dixie S., Kerri G., Kim C., Al M., Carol D., Christine M., Bill C., Suzanne S., James B., Dennis M., Myles M., Joel S., George S., Kevin H., Karen W., Michelle T., Elizabeth W., Christine M., Paul H., Dianne K., Craig W., David W., Rick D., Patty K., and Eddy Z.
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