Former major of Allegheny County Jail prison guards to serve 8 months in halfway house

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The former major of the guards for the Allegheny County Jail will serve eight months in a halfway house in Youngstown following a court hearing today at which his attorney sought a change to home confinement.

James Donis, of Shaler, was sentenced last month to five years of probation including eight months in the Renewal Inc. community correctional facility because he filed a false report after punching a handcuffed inmate in the face.

Renewal rejected him because the facility houses many former jail inmates and would have a difficult time guaranteeing his safety.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy L. Johnston argued that he could serve eight months in a community corrections facility in Youngstown, but Donis' attorney objected because that facility wouldn't allow him to work at his wife's business, the Perrytowne Drafthouse.

The facility follows a federal Bureau of Prisons rule that generally doesn't allow people in its custody to work in family-owned businesses because it might be hard to verify their employment.

"We have a legitimate job, a legitimate business that exists, and Mr. Donis goes there to work on a daily basis," attorney Charles Porter Jr. said in representing Mr. Donis. "Where is he going to work that he's going to earn $50,000 a year? Where is he going to work, as a convicted felon, to support his family?"

Mr. Porter said it would not make sense to disallow the Perrytowne Drafthouse and instead "have him come back to work at McDonald's."

He suggested that either the Bureau of Prisons should give its blessing to the tavern job or perhaps Donis should serve eight months on home confinement.

"Youngstown is available," said U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond.

He refused to ask the Bureau of Prisons to allow the tavern job.

He said home confinement wasn't an option in a case where "a corrections officer assaulted a defenseless prisoner who was under restraints at the time and falsified records" to conceal the details.

Mr. Porter said there is no date set for Donis to report to Youngstown.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.


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