Justice Dept. announces investigation into 2 Pa. prisons

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The Justice Department announced today that it is starting civil investigations into two prisons in Western Pennsylvania.

The Justice department will investigate allegations that the North Side's State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh failed to adequately protect prisoners from violence and sexual assault at the hands of guards and other prisoners, according to a release.

The department also "will look into whether SCI Pittsburgh officers systematically targeted prisoners for violence and other abuse based on the prisoners' race, sexual orientation, gender identity or other status, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

The investigation into abuse at SCI-Pittsburgh began in late 2010 and has led to the suspension of eight corrections officers and the firings of four top managers.

The department will also investigate allegations that SCI-Cresson provided inadequate mental health care to prisoners who have mental illness, failed to adequately protect such prisoners from harm, and subjected them to excessively prolonged periods of isolation.

Starting Friday, those with information about the prisons can reach the Justice Department via email at pennsylvaniaprisons.community@usdoj.gov .

Today's announcement is separate from any potential federal criminal investigation involving these facilities.

The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania are jointly investigating this matter.



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