The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 21, 2014

Warden: Jail allowed man’s dogged efforts

Inmate’s 3 calls to arrange pit bull sitter unanswered

— SUNBURY — Northumberland County Prison officials have no obligation to help inmates check on family, friends or pets outside the walls, and phone calls do not have to be provided, Warden Roy Johnson said in response to a Sunbury resident’s recent complaints.

However, that doesn’t mean officials don’t extend help if necessary and within reason, he said.

John “Bullwinkle” Wertz, 59, of Sunbury, said prison officials wouldn’t allow him to make a phone call to arrange for care of his prized pit bull.

Wertz, who spend the weekend of June 8 in jail over unpaid fines related to a DUI charge, was given at least three chances to contact someone outside the prison and no one answered, Johnson said.

“We are not uncaring individuals, but we can’t fix everything in the street,” Johnson said. “We can’t just let him sit there and dial other numbers all night. We have other inmates.”

Wertz, jailed for failure to pay $1,400 in fines from DUI and related charges from 2012 in Danville, claims prison officials’ action cause his 5-year-old dog named Diesel to spent two days without food, water or bathroom breaks inside his home at 964 S. Front St.

“The blame should be put on the individual,” Johnson said. “He was the one who didn’t pay his fines. He was the one who had warrants out for him. He was the one who got arrested.”

Prison staff are “limited in what we can do,” Johnson said. “We have no authority outside the prison walls.”


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