How transparent is Allegheny County Jail compared to other PA jails? We requested their mental health policies to find out.
Editor’s note: This story was produced for Sunshine Week, an annual, nationwide celebration of government transparency and access to information taking place March 14-20. PublicSource frequently uses the Right-to-Know law, as it did in this story, and encounters varying degrees of transparency by Pennsylvania’s public agencies.
To better understand how incarcerated people are cared for, PublicSource sought all Allegheny County Jail policies related to mental health, suicide prevention, administration of medications and accommodations for people with disabilities through a public records request in September.
Of the six policies the county provided, five were almost entirely redacted with thick black lines, disclosing only the title and the policy’s first few sentences. The county justified the redactions by stating in an accompanying letter that the information “would be reasonably likely to result in a substantial and demonstrable risk of physical harm to or the personal security of an individual.”
Watch a video of PublicSource reporter Juliette Rihl explaining this storyPublicSource appealed the redactions to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records; the appeal was denied. But the five other most populated counties in the state provided similar policies, either in full or in part, providing insight into exactly the type of information withheld locally.
Lancaster and Delaware counties provided PublicSource their policies in full, while Bucks County provided one policy in full and four more policies with light or moderate redactions. Montgomery County provided its suicide prevention and pharmaceutical operations policies in full and two other policies with redactions.