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How Cavalcante spent 13 days on the run

Plus, the key takeaways from our live panel on mental health in Pa. jails.

The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

Monday, September 18, 2023
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Broken system, escape story, staffing crisis, special election, injection sites, Dow liability, and your new text BFF Josh Shapiro. Happy Monday. 

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.

“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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» A complete guide to the candidates for state Supreme Court
» A complete guide to the candidates for Commonwealth and Superior Courts
» What to know about the judicial retention questions on the November ballot
» 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 events@spotlightpa.org
A lovely shot of Nockamixon State Park in Quakertown, via Amy Z. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.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.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.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.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.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.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
INJECTION SITES: 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. 
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.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.
Join Spotlight PA for a day of conversation about Pennsylvania's growing communities of color and their lack of representation.

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 scrambler@spotlightpa.org. 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.
Friday'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.
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