The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 21, 2013

Judge calls for meeting on prison suicide

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

SUNBURY — President Judge Robert Sacavage is calling for a meeting between city, county and state officials in the wake of a controversial response to the suicide of a Northumberland County Prison inmate last week.

Sacavage on Tuesday asked warden Roy Johnson whether all professional standards were met before and after Andrew Beers, 27, of Paxinos — who reportedly sought protective custody — was found dead in his cell after he hanged himself.

Sacavage also addressed the lack of law enforcement at the prison during times of distress. He asked the prison board on Tuesday to set a meeting between Sunbury Mayor David Persing, the prison board and state police at Stonington to create a plan to avoid any other conflicts that may arise during a time of crisis at the jail.

Controversy occurred after the body of Beers was discovered hanging in his cell last week.

Northumberland County Coroner Jim Kelley questioned why Sunbury police did not investigate the hanging after Kelley’s office called the officers for assistance.

After some finger-pointing by county and city officials, Persing said the end result was a misunderstanding between the city and Northumberland County.

“We need to sit down with the proper people as soon as possible,” Sacavage said.

Sacavage also asked Johnson about how the suicide was handled from the moment it was discovered.

Johnson responded that everything was done properly and that the prison cooperated fully with Kelley’s office.

Kelley ruled the death a suicide on Tuesday.

Asked by Sacavage about the alleged request from Beers to be placed in protective custody, Johnson admitted Beers made the request.

“A lot of inmates ask for protective custody,” Johnson said. “They ask to just get away from other inmates.”

There was no evidence Beers was in trouble, Johnson said, adding that Beers was in a holding area with eight other inmates and the request was most likely because he wanted to be out of the cell.

Sacavage was satisfied with the way management at the prison responded to the incident and thanked everyone for their efforts.

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