Memo to the warden: The county jail needs your leadership

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A note of congratulations to Orlando Harper, who next month will take over as new warden of the Allegheny County Jail.

Sir, you appear to have the experience for the job, having spent 24 years working in the jail system in Washington, D.C., while being promoted from officer to deputy warden. At 47, you are at a prime age to take the next career step.

It increases public confidence that your appointment by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald came after a competitive search conducted by a 22-person committee. You were judged the best of six finalists.

That's good, because the jail needs stability and leadership. Since January 2011, the jail has had three acting wardens and the last two years have been rough.

Last year, an investigative series by the Post-Gazette revealed that the jail had high rates of inmate deaths when compared with other facilities and that medical treatment in the jail was questioned. Beatings have been reported and a couple of guards have been accused of violating inmates' civil rights. In 2011, 80 guards had a case of the "blue flu" on the weekend when the Steelers played in the Super Bowl.

Welcome to Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Jail, Mr. Harper -- and good luck. You will need it.

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