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A monthslong investigation by Spotlight PA and the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism found that Pennsylvania’s system for determining whether someone is mentally fit to stand trial often traps them in the very place making them worse — jail.
In “A Criminal Solution,” the newsrooms reported that Pennsylvania laws and policies meant to aid people with severe mental health issues and who have been accused of a crime often do just the opposite.
Spotlight PA recently hosted a panel to discuss this broken system. Read the key takeaways from the September conversation.
THE CONTEXT: Repeated incarceration instead of care is common for people with serious mental health issues, said panelist Nev Jones, a researcher and professor of psychology and social work at the University of Pittsburgh.
“What we see is a very large group of people in American society who are essentially socially abandoned, who end up moving between what has been referred to as the institutional circuit,” Jones said.
Versions of this path to incarceration exist across the country, Jones said, but some jurisdictions do a better job than Pennsylvania of redirecting people with mental health needs from the criminal justice system.
|NOTABLE / QUOTABLE|
“It’s time to decide what side you’re on."—U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) joined the picket line with the United Auto Workers in Wayne, Michigan. The workers went on strike Friday.
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The first 500 gifts of any amount made during our Fall Member Drive will be DOUBLED by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. This is a huge opportunity to leverage your gift and unlock HUGE matching support for Spotlight PA.
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|» STORY FEST: Spotlight PA is participating in Philly Story Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival that brings together storytellers from across the city on one stage. Join us Thursday, Oct. 5 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bok building in South Philadelphia (1901 South 9th St.). Tickets are $25 and available here.|
» PATH TO EQUITY: Join Spotlight PA for its first in-person summit on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Spotlight PA is co-presenting this event with Color & Culture, a Pennsylvania marketing firm. Tickets are on sale at this link until sold out.
» ELECTION 101: Join Spotlight PA’s government reporters Kate Huangpu and Stephen Caruso on Thursday, Oct. 12 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on Pa.’s 2023 judicial candidates. Register for the event here and submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A lovely shot of Nockamixon State Park in Quakertown, via Amy Z.
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|HOW IT HAPPENED: The New York Times has a comprehensive look at Danelo Cavalcante's 13 days on the run, when he moved only at night to avoid capture. The Chester County Prison from which Cavalcante escaped is severely understaffed, Pennsylvania's de facto independent prison monitor told ABC News. A 2022 survey by the Pennsylvania Prison Society found only 178 of the prison's 243 full-time positions were filled.|
FRESH START: A Philadelphia City Council member has introduced a legislative package that aims to help residents wrongly convicted of crimes get their lives back on track after leaving prison, Philly Voice reports. Under the package, exonerated people would receive $500 and be eligible for Catto Scholarships from the Community College of Philadelphia. The city would also protect them from employment discrimination.
SPECIAL ELECTION: Voters in a section of Allegheny County will head to the polls tomorrow to pick a new state House representative for the 21st District. WESA explains that the special election — the fourth this year — has been a quiet affair even though it will determine control of the state House.
INJECTION SITES: NO LIABILITY: Dow told a federal court on Friday it is not liable to help cover cleanup costs related to February’s train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio because its railcar on the train did not cause the crash, and the chemical spilled is not considered hazardous by federal authorities, Reuters reports. In a June complaint, Norfolk Southern named Dow and other companies liable for remediation, claiming the chemical spilled was hazardous.
Philadelphia City Council voted 13-1 last week to send Mayor Jim Kenney a bill that would prohibit supervised drug consumption sites in much of the city
, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. Operators who want to open such a facility could still seek special permission from the zoning board and endorsements from community groups.
TTYL GOV: You can now get updates from Gov. Josh Shapiro texted to your phone — and send him messages of your own.
BURN AND LEARN: Heat is taking its toll on students across the country, including in Sarah Mueller’s high school chemistry class in Pittsburgh.
GOING DUTCH: Former NFL player Marshawn Lynch took a buggy ride in Intercourse for Thursday Night Football and had a really great time.
SEIZED ART: New York investigators have seized three works of art, including one from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museums, believed to have been stolen from a Jewish collector during the Holocaust.
WIN SOME, LOSE SOME: Today in questionable rankings — Pennsylvania is bad for college grads, good for "stylish sleepwear."
Unscramble and send your answer to email@example.com. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted
E A D N R F T E L I EFriday's answer: Bellwether
Congrats to our weekly winner: George B.
Congrats to our daily winners: Stacy S., Becky C., Kerry L., Marty M., Bruce B., Don H., David T., Susan N., Barbara F., Jon W., Jane R., Daniel M., John P., Richard A., Susan D., John F., Stanley J., Tish M., Geoff M., James B., Daniel S., Ted W., Vicki U., Wendy A., Jody A., Dan A., Karen W., and William Z.