The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 19, 2013

One prison guard fired, another suspended

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — A Northumberland County Prison guard was fired and another suspended as the result of an incident that prison officials said on Monday they are investigating.

County officials are keeping mum about the case, but a person in a position to know inside the county prison said a guard assaulted a female inmate.

Warden Roy Johnson wouldn’t comment directly on the case.

“We are always investigating something,” he said. “There is always going to be one (an investigation) happening.”

Steve Bridy, a county commissioner and prison board chairman, said he received an email last week from Johnson saying there was an investigation taking place, but Bridy would not go into details.

A source said the inmate has been released from the jail because of fears that other guards would retaliate against her.

The prison has been under scrutiny since Commissioner Vinny Clausi waged war against the alleged “cover-ups” by the prison administration. Clausi, who is out of the state until Dec. 3, said he knew nothing about the disciplinary actions until he was questioned by a reporter on Monday.

The commissioner said he immediately called the prison.

“I can’t get into the details of what happened but I told the jail I wanted a full report and I want to know what is going on there. This is another example of why this prison needs to be fixed from the inside out. I told the taxpayers I would continue to keep them informed of what was going on inside the jail and I will continue to do that.”

Clausi at one point earlier this year began to release daily reports about happenings inside the 138-year old structure and told the administration he wouldn’t stop unless something changed inside the jail.

After nearly a week of Clausi’s reports, Johnson and staff agreed to a plan to curb internal problems. In May, two Northumberland County Prison guards were fired, one quit and a another was suspended and under investigation. The month ended with yet another guard suspended without pay for allegedly distributing narcotics and delivering tobacco to inmates.

Also over the summer two female guards were also suspended. One female guard was accused of kissing an inmate and another was allegedly caught passing a cell phone to an inmate.

The prison has never released the results of any of the investigations that were conducted. On Monday, Northumberland County human resource director Joe Picarelli said Sgt. Michael Gibbs was terminated last week after being employed at the prison since July, 2008. Another guard is serving a suspension, but Picarelli declined to comment on either employee.