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Hypothermia and a death in a frigid Pa. prison

Plus, Mastriano campaign didn't spend its last million.

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

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Thursday, December 15, 2022
Prison deaths, winter masks, unspent money, 50-million-dollar move, specials prep, board report, air pollution, snowstorm, and Pa.'s most stylish.

Jamal Crummel spent a month in the hospital for hypothermia and related complications while in Dauphin County Prison custody. 

When he was returned to the jail, his cell block was even colder.

Crummel, 45, died in his bunk a week later after becoming hypothermic again. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, pants, and socks and surrounded by several uneaten meals, PennLive (paywall) reports.

Crummel was the 16th person to die at Dauphin County Prison since January 1, 2019 amid ongoing scrutiny of the prison's death rate. Reuters reported that at least 20 people died there between 2008 and 2019.

THE CONTEXT: PennLive has spent months digging into the deaths at Dauphin County Prison, where most incarcerated people have been convicted of minor crimes or are awaiting trial and presumed to be innocent.

The outlet found official narratives that rarely matched the details in official records obtained through Right-to-Know requests.

In January, around the time of Crummel's death, Judi LaVia Jones went to a Dauphin County Prison board meeting to raise alarms over temperatures inside the prison where her son was also housed. 

Citing ice inside cells and her son's blue fingertips, Jones pressed former Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, who the jail hired as a consultant in 2021, for answers. 

WITF reported that Wetzel said: "The temperatures have been checked, and this topic continues to be under review." Prisoner advocates say the jail's heating and cooling system has been a problem for years.


"His 12 years from where he started to where he ends in the party is really a fascinating era. He really bookends it."

—Chris Borick, a Muhlenberg College pollster, reflecting on changes in the GOP during the 12-year tenure of outgoing U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.)
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Thank you to everyone who gave Wednesday, including Glen and Karen H., who said, "I enjoy reading your articles as they are so factual." Join them and make a gift now »

» THE EXIT: Join us from 3-3:30 p.m. ET TODAY via Zoom for a free Q&A with Pennsylvania’s 47th governor, Tom Wolf, on his two terms, his legacy, and what comes next for the state. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

On, Comet! On, Cupid! A light display of Santa in his sleigh at The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg, via Don N. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania

Christmas lights arranged in the shape of Santa, his sleigh, and reindeer.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.TRIPLEDEMIC: This winter's "tripledemic" or "tridemic" of COVID-19, influenza, and RSV has U.S. health officials recommending masks again to reduce the spread of all three. Several Pennsylvania counties had high levels of COVID-19 transmissions on Wednesday, while hospital admissions for the flu had tripled statewide since Thanksgiving, with more holiday gatherings on the way.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.CASH IN HAND: Despite repeatedly urging supporters to donate in the final stretch of his campaign for governor, Republican Doug Mastriano failed to spend nearly $1 million he already had. The Inquirer (paywall) reports it's unlikely that money would have changed the outcome of the lopsided race, but some Republicans are griping that it could have gone to help the party's other candidates down ballot.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.$50 MILLION: Outgoing Pennsylvania speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) is defending his relocation of $50 million in funds from a speaker of the House account, a move Democrats decried as an attempt to hamstring his successor. Amid a feud over control of the chamber, ABC27 reports that Democrats say no notice was given, though Cutler — who calls the transfer typical — disagrees. 

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.SPECIALS PREP: Allegheny County is preparing to hold several state House special elections on Feb. 7 despite an interparty dispute in Harrisburg over the legitimacy of the schedule, City & State reports. After weeks of speculation, ex-state Rep. Carrie Lewis DelRosso (R., Allegheny) has confirmed she won't be seeking the 32nd District seat, writing on Facebook, "it's not the right time for me to run."

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.'APPALLED': Luzerne County Board of Elections member Alyssa Fusaro is denying an allegation that she used profanity and a four-letter slur directed against Hispanic people following a disagreement over the handling of election materials on Nov. 9. Fusaro was one of two GOP board members to vote against certifying the county's midterm results after a ballot paper shortage seen there on Election Day.
Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.

AIR PROBE: Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection is investigating Shell's petrochemical complex in Beaver County for exceeding limits on emissions. The plant went fully operational last month.

WINTER WATCH: Snow, sleet, and freezing rain are falling in Pennsylvania this morning. Weather watches and warnings are in effect across the state, along with scattered school closures and road restrictions

EMISSIONS CHECK: Want to see the carbon footprint for your neighborhood? A new tool from The New York Times (paywall) maps the disparities in climate impacts via average household emissions.

LAST WHIZ KID: The last of the Phillies' Whiz Kids, Curt Simmons died this week at the age of 93. MLB.com reports the pitching great and Pennsylvania legend died at his Ambler home. He grew up an hour away in Egypt.

MOST STYLISH: The New York Times' inclusion of U.S. Sen.-elect John Fetterman on its 2022 most-stylish list was widely mocked. The Inquirer (paywall) reports the spotted lanternfly was also recognized.

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 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Intermediary

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Becky C., Kimberly D., Judith D., Barbara F., Jon W., Don H., Vicki U., Chuck M., Elaine C., Kim C., Myles M., Tracey C., David W., Dianne K., Bill S., Marty M., George S.
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