Audit cites training deficiencies at state prisons

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HARRISBURG -- A report by the state auditor general has found the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections failed to monitor and review employee training as required by agency policy and the standards of the American Correctional Association.

The performance audit, released Thursday, found that just five of the 14 examined facilities met a goal of 90 percent attendance at required training courses. At the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh, 80.8 percent of annually required training courses had a completion rate below 90 percent, according to the audit.

"Without the training, if something bad happens in that facility to someone, they're going to be able to go back and say the state did not do its job, and, therefore, the employee or the prisoner was more vulnerable because of that," Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said in a phone interview.

His office said Department of Corrections officials had agreed with the audit findings and plan to address the recommendations. Mr. DePasquale said the agency's response to the audit was helpful.

"I am convinced that they are going to do everything they can and have already started to correct these issues," he said. "I believe us doing this audit and Secretary Wetzel's approach to this thing is how government is supposed to work."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said that when Mr. Wetzel took office he identified training as an area the agency needed to improve.

"Really, from the minute he started working here at the department he directed staff to see what was going on with training and discover what areas need to be improved," spokeswoman Susan McNaughton said.

The performance audit covered July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2012. During that period, an estimated 3,364 new corrections employees received basic training at the Department of Corrections training academy in Lancaster County, according to the audit. In addition to basic training, the academy is responsible for overseeing in-service training for veteran employees, the report said.

But the academy did not review training at all locations. It did not verify the training records of 945 employees who were working at the academy, the department's central office or its 14 community corrections centers at the end of June 2012, according to the audit.

The audit also found that problems cited in internal reviews went uncorrected by individual facilities.

Roy Pinto, president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, said in a statement that the union appreciates the report but was not surprised by its findings.

"Our officers aren't receiving the training they deserve because there aren't enough people to train them. Our prisons are woefully understaffed," Mr. Pinto said. "We have shared this concern repeatedly. Hopefully, this will force the department to address this issue once and for all. Lives are at stake."


Karen Langley: or 717-787-2141.


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