Oversight board bans controversial training from county jail

by Charlie Wolfson, PublicSource

The Allegheny County Jail Oversight Board voted Monday to cancel a controversial training contract after a trainer’s professional history was called into question. Training had already begun under the $300,000 agreement when the oversight board voted to halt it.

Objections centered around the company, C-SAU, and its leader, Joseph Garcia. C-SAU trains correctional officers with militaristic methods for cell extraction and less-lethal force. ACJ Warden Orlando Harper said the training was made necessary after voters decided in May to ban solitary confinement, restraint chairs, leg shackles and chemical weapons.

A use-of-force expert who testified at the meeting said the bans could indeed cause problems at the jail, but he raised alarm over an inmate death that occurred in January at a South Carolina jail that had previously contracted with C-SAU.

The expert, Gary Raney, reviewed the South Carolina case as a consultant and told the oversight board Monday that the officers involved in the inmate’s death were acting in accordance with their C-SAU training.

“It was a gross violation of what we call generally accepted jail practices as well as the use of force,” Raney said Monday. “I thought they were going to be criminally charged.

“The yelling, the premature force … All of that was consistent with what they were taught.”

Harper defended Garcia and C-SAU in the South Carolina case, saying that there was no connection since Garcia’s work there ended in 2019. 

Harper said the training has made his officers into “leaders” and that they’ve learned more during the first six weeks of training than they learned during “their entire career at this agency.”

 

Allegheny County Jail. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

 

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