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A survey of county jails across Pennsylvania found many openly admitting that they are ill-equipped to address a growing mental health crisis.
The survey, part of a collaboration between Spotlight PA and the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, drew responses from more than 20 Pennsylvania jails serving the majority of the state population.
They described similar situations: a growing number of incarcerated people with serious mental health needs, a lack of medical staff, and a complex system for accessing the few resources available from the state.
And that lack of preparedness is putting some of the most vulnerable incarcerated people at heightened risk.
Read the full report: Jail officials across Pa. sound alarm as mental health crisis puts people at risk, survey finds.
THE CONTEXT: The survey was sent to every jail in Pennsylvania. Those that responded house roughly 13,000 people combined.
Officials described a justice system that funnels people into jails even when their criminal behavior may be a symptom of their mental illness.
"The jail acts as a de facto social worker," wrote David Kratz, director of corrections in Bucks County.
Scott Robinson, warden of the Snyder County Prison in Selinsgrove, said, "We appear to be a 'dumping ground.'"
Others said they don't have the training or tools to deal with rising rates of mental illness that, in many cases, went untreated before.
"When individuals are not medicating, we have very little success in getting them started," wrote William Schouppe, warden at the Beaver County Jail. "We do not have the resources to care for those folks."
|NOTABLE / QUOTABLE|
"I am stating today as I have stated in the past that I am happy to answer questions from the committee in a public hearing."
—Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner saying he'll testify before state House lawmakers eyeing his possible impeachment, but only in public
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|DEADLINE DAY: You have until Monday to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election. If you haven't yet, you can do so here. If you're unsure of your registration status, confirm it first. And once you're all set, visit Spotlight PA's Election Center for key dates and calendar holds, an interactive sample ballot, a campaign finance tracker, and guides to the candidates. Reminder two: Mail ballots must be requested by Nov. 1.|
TAX QUESTIONS: City & State asks if Pennsylvania can erase property taxes without wiping out education. The question has long loomed over Harrisburg and halted efforts to adjust the levies, a primary source of school funding. And while a one-time boost in property tax rebates rolled out this year, long-term action could, like so many other things, depend on the outcome of this year's governor's race.
STATE SALE: Outgoing state Sen. Pat Browne (R., Lehigh) is moving a bill that would sell the massive Allentown State Hospital property — a generational redevelopment opportunity — to a development group headed by his childhood friend and political donor J.B. Reilly. The Morning Call (paywall) reports the $5.5 million proposed sale has the support of other lawmakers but also lots of critics.
LEGAL LABEL: Months after Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of Spotlight PA's push to uncover more information about Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program, the court has changed the status of its opinion from "unreported" to "reported." It's a significant development that means the decision "can now be cited as binding precedent in other cases," reporter Ed Mahon explains.
INDUSTRIAL Q&A: Pennsylvania's largest industrial project since World War II is happening in Beaver County. Shell's ethane cracker plant will turn Shale gas into plastic, and with full operations set to begin any day now, StateImpact got experts to answer questions from locals on how the plant could impact property values, gas royalties, and air quality in a region where the latter is already a constant concern.
IN NATURE: The AP reports toxic "forever chemicals" known as PFAS are increasingly being found in fish and game animals, like deer, in the U.S. Pennsylvania issued a "do not eat" order for tainted fish in the Neshaminy Creek basin last year. A test of area deer yielded better results.
BUILDING BLOCK: State College has adopted a zoning change meant to pause student high-rise development amid concerns about the sustainability of the borough's current building boom. StateCollege.com reports tall buildings are still allowed, but a decade-old incentive is gone.
NO NOTICE: Upper Mount Bethel Township in Northampton County may have violated Pennsylvania's transparency law in discussing a controversial warehouse project without notifying the public first, the Morning Call (paywall) reports. Warehouse opponents weren't thrilled.
DINNER BELLS: The bell has tolled for the Inquirer's bell-based restaurant rating system. Food critic Craig LaBan (paywall) says the pre-pandemic rating system no longer applies in today's restaurant world.
ART STARCH: The butter sculpture at Pennsylvania's annual farm show is cool, but potato may be the superior artistic medium.
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