Local lawmaker supports tougher law and policy reform to make prisons safer

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JACKSON TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY — A local state lawmaker is calling for change after a brutal prison assault. We first told you last week about the attack at SCI Dallas.

What happened here last Thursday leaves a female counselor still hospitalized. A state representative who serves the Back Mountain believes it’s a case of ‘enough is enough’.

Behind the walls of SCI Dallas on September 10, a prison counselor walking to a break room was jumped by an inmate and punched repeatedly.

“She had several broken bones in her face. She had a potential brain bleed. She was in the intensive care unit,” said Rep. Aaron Kaufer.

Kaufer says the victim never saw it coming.

“They’re really vulnerable in these situations and to have this young lady, who like I said a young mother to be out there and you just get really, you know just get beaten up out of nowhere and attacked and assaulted, it was very brutal.”

Kaufer says he has learned some staff feared something like this would happen. The accused inmate, who is serving a life sentence, was released from restrictive housing where he was held for making violent threats.

“From my understanding, the corrections officers were trying to warn the administration about this particular inmate and it went unheeded.”

While Kaufer supports tougher legislation and harsher sentences for such prison assaults, he also wants prison subordinate staff to have greater policy input.

“We need to make sure they’re a part of this decision making because they’re the ones who are ultimately, the ones who are at risk.”

A risk which Ed Piestrak, a former psychologist at SCI Dallas, witnessed with his own eyes.

“When you’re a staff member, you’re mingling around the inmates at all times. You’re walking, you’re changing, you’re talking to them. You have them in your office. You’re in private sessions with them. I mean they could do a lot to you.”

The Pennsylania State Correction Officers Association has raised the issue with the Wolf administration calling for more legislative oversight into reporting such attacks and the need to follow through with inmate disciplinary measures.

“For me, I’m just sick of seeing these headlines. I’m sick of having these types of discussions. We need to do more to make sure that people inside of our prisons are safe.”

Rep. Kaufer has a chance to make his case in person to SCI Dallas officials. He has a meeting scheduled with them on Monday.

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