Calls for Allegheny County Jail warden to be fired after inmate deaths

PITTSBURGH — After more than a dozen deaths in the Allegheny County Jail, multiple organizations and families marched from the steps of the City-County building across the street to the courthouse hoping to have their concerns heard by the warden during the jail oversight meeting Thursday.

“A non-doctor was working as a doctor in our jail,” said Bethany Hallam, the county’s council-member-at-large and member of the jail oversight board.

In April, the oversight board reported 53 vacancies in the jail medical staff – and on Thursday, Allegheny Health Network confirmed one of only two doctors working at the jail — Dr. Wilson Bernales — has been suspended.

“One medical doctor responsible for the health of and well-being of over 14 hundred people,” said Hallam.

Currently, there are 1,431 inmates housed in the Allegheny County Jail.

Hallam said this is just one of the many concerns advocates and the board have raised.

“Seventeen people have died in this jail since April 2020,” Hallam said.

Following the recent death of Anthony Talotta, a mentally disabled inmate, organization leaders are calling the situation a state of emergency and are pushing for the warden’s termination.

“We are calling on Warden Harper to be fired yesterday,” Hallam said.

Talotta died just two weeks after being incarcerated at the jail. His death, along with staffing, deplorable health conditions and regulatory concerns have prompted a class action lawsuit.

This week, the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) penned a letter directly to the warden. They say they haven’t received a response.

The group passed out a piece of paper with the names of the 17 inmates who have died in the Allegheny County Jail since 2020 - six of those were this year.

Watch for updates on that meeting at 11 on WPXI Tonight.