UNIONTOWN, Pa. – The ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project (PILP), and Blank Rome LLC have settled a federal lawsuit alleging violations of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution due to inhumane conditions at the 130-year-old Fayette County Prison. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of four people incarcerated at the prison.
Under the settlement agreement, Fayette County has agreed to limit the prison population to 180 people and to promptly provide ACLU-PA and PILP with a plan to bring the population down should it exceed 180 people. County officials agreed to ensure temperatures inside the prison remain within a reasonable range of comfort and to test and report temperatures biweekly. The agreement also requires Fayette County to limit the use of plastic cots placed in common areas that were frequently used as temporary beds.
“We are pleased that Fayette County agreed to settle the case and commit to these important changes to protect those incarcerated in the county jail,” said Sara Rose, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “We hope that limiting the jail population will lead to improved conditions for everyone until the facility is no longer used to house people.”
“The fact that we had to file a lawsuit to win even these basic protections speaks volumes about the state of jails and prisons in Pennsylvania and across the nation. Fayette County is not an outlier in terms of poor conditions,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Nevertheless, we are happy with the progress made in this settlement.”
“The existing facility is simply too old to fix, but the changes already initiated by the county and those in the settlement will ameliorate the worst of the issues,” said Alexandra Morgan-Kurz, managing attorney at PILP. “With this agreement and a continued commitment to a reduced population, the jail will have the necessary flexibility to provide a safer environment for our community members behind bars.”
A new Fayette County Prison is scheduled to be completed in March 2023. The agreement will remain in effect until the current facility is no longer used to house people overnight.
Read the full settlement here.