U.S. Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.

Yet, at the Allegheny Co. Jail, those who have not been convicted work to make the jail function, for free.

.@bethanyhallam said that every dollar the jail saves goes in the county’s general fund instead of the worker’s pockets, “The county is profiting off of forced labor...It is essentially slave labor.”

According to Allegheny County Jail policy incarcerated persons are compensated two ways: food and contact visits with loved ones. During a pandemic, though, the latter is not possible.

.@bethanyhallam said she is currently in preliminary discussions with staff to introduce legislation that will pay Allegheny County Jail incarcerated workers $15 an hour. She is not sure if she will be able to make the change through the Jail Oversight Board or through Council.
“We’re looking into doing it via the general county budget. It’s going to be an uphill battle—but what is the argument against it? They’re being exposed to elements every time they leave their pod, that’s a risk of catching COVID-19. All without being compensated,” @bethanyhallam

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More from @BrittanyHailer

3 May
As an educator, I always think about how to explain the mechanism under which I work to up and coming young journalists. For #WorldPressFreedomDay I’d like to talk about how Allegheny County hasn’t responded to my questions in 70 days.
Covering the jail, questions have to go through the Spokesperson who works directly for the County Executive. In years prior, a question about the jail would be answered by the jail. Today, I cannot ask the ACJ administration anything without going through the County Executive.
Over the summer, the @pghcurrent broke the story about the book ban at the Allegheny County Jail. County Spokesperson Amie Downs called The Current “not a real news source.” After readers started calling her office, she readily provided comment.
Read 15 tweets
2 May
A year in the ACJ kitchen:

Forty workers at a time prepare food for more than 1,600 hungry men and women. Standing shoulder to shoulder, they transfer meatballs and applesauce to trays, then load those trays to a cart and send them up in the elevator.

The workplace has been at the center of numerous COVID outbreaks at the jail. Over the past year, when the unpaid workers get sick, the kitchen slows to a crawl and falls behind. For the incarcerated, food quality is somehow worse than it was pre-COVID.

Sources for this story said that food quality, unsafe working conditions, and unsanitary work practices partially stems from the jail’s contract with companies like Summit, but ultimately, they said the blame falls on the jail administration.

Read 4 tweets
21 Nov 20
Idk if you’ve ever been inside Allegheny County Jail, but I used to teach there. A “leisure library” is not what it sounds like. It’s a cart or pile of discarded and forgotten books. It’s not a room. It’s not something curated. It’s got literature in it if you’re lucky. (Thread)
The program I worked for was Words Without Walls with Chatham University. Founded and directed by the incomparable Sarah Shotland. The program also teaches children because they’re are incarcerated persons under 18 at the ACJ. This book restriction affects them, too.
The teachers of this program have not been able to access their students since the beginning of the pandemic. You experienced different levels of concern with bringing in materials be it books or notebooks, but these students also haven’t had a writing outlet or class since March
Read 8 tweets
21 Nov 20
Netflix’s “We Are The Champions” just introduced me to competitive dog dancing. I resign. This is my calling.
We have a volunteer.
Read 4 tweets
19 Nov 20
Amy Downs called the Pittsburgh Current ‘not a real news outlet’ after we published a story on the Allegheny County Jail banning inmates from receiving books.

PublicSource ran the same story a couple hours after us. What does that tell you? Image
Sonya M. Alemán:

Reliance on official record keeping government documents, logs, files, court dockets, council agendas, and meeting minutes sustain the status quo and an epistemology embedded with whiteness’ because these records are tied to ideas of ‘reason’ and ‘objectivity’
She wrote “not really a news outlet” and her name is spelled Amie. 🙃
Read 4 tweets
18 Nov 20
According to Thomas J. Weber, CEO of PrimeCare Medical, which provides correctional health services in 80 facilities across five states, alcohol detoxification has doubled in jails and prisons since the beginning of the pandemic.
Quarantine is exacerbating mental health for folks on the inside, much like it is affecting us on the outside. Those incarcerated are deeply worried about family members contracting the virus, and during quarantine cannot call or communicate as regularly.
Facilities have to be careful in monitoring PPE because certain materials can be used for suicide. Weber also said that PrimeCare can make recommendations for mask wearing at a facility, but not mandate it. And some security folks will not wear masks.
Read 11 tweets

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