PITTSBURGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed an amended complaint against the Allegheny County Jail Oversight Board updating a previously filed lawsuit alleging multiple persistent violations of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act. Besides Rachel Radke, who originally filed the case on her own, the new filing adds another plaintiff, who also regularly attends oversight board public meetings, and provides additional details about the board’s repeated failures to follow the Sunshine Act’s transparency requirements.
The alleged Sunshine Act violations include failing to post public meeting agendas 24 hours in advance of the meeting; unreasonably restricting and ignoring public comments; and using closed, executive session meetings to discuss topics that should have been part of public discourse.
“A healthy democracy requires both transparency and public participation,” said Witold Walczak, legal director at the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “When a government entity closes itself off from public participation and accountability, it breaches the public’s trust, damages that institution’s credibility, and undermines its effectiveness.”
“Chronic issues continue to plague the Allegheny County Jail while our incarcerated neighbors, many of whom have not been convicted of a crime, suffer the consequences — inadequate medical care, lockdowns, and death,” said Rachel Radke, a community advocate for reforming Allegheny County Jail. “The oversight board has a duty to oversee the health and safekeeping of those inside. I am optimistic that this lawsuit will compel the board to carry out this vital responsibility with the appropriate public transparency and with the respect, empathy, and consideration it deserves.”
"We can no longer wait for the members of the jail oversight board to follow the law and act in the best interest of the over 1500 incarcerated people at the Allegheny County Jail,” said Tanisha Long, a community advocate for criminal legal reform in Allegheny County. “The county deserves a functioning oversight board that strives for transparency and respects the public's right to participate in these meetings so that we can focus on improving the deplorable conditions inside the jail."
The lawsuit asks the Court of Common Pleas in Allegheny County to order a permanent injunction to ensure that the jail’s oversight board is in strict compliance with the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.
You can read the full filing at aclupa.org/radke