PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pennsylvania jail where an inmate escaped before allegedly killing a woman in July had poor morale and training, and a warden who wasn't respected by staff, according to a scathing 21-page report by a hired consultant.
One guard was nodding off instead of monitoring security cameras, though the report didn't blame him for Robert Crissman's July 30 escape from the Armstrong County Jail.
That's primarily because Crissman, 38, was already outside the jail when he escaped — working as a trusty tasked with retrieving inmate breakfast trays from a food delivery truck.
The report by CSI Corporate Security and Investigations concluded Crissman was improperly assigned to the job because he was apparently still withdrawing from heroin use days after his arrest for violating his parole on drug charges.
Had Crissman been properly detoxed and evaluated, he would not have become a trusty, according to the report released Wednesday by the county's prison board. Trusties are inmates given special jobs and privileges.
Crissman is jailed, in a neighboring county's lockup, on charges that he beat and strangled an acquaintance, 55-year-old Tammy Long, at her home before he was recaptured the next day. His attorney, Charles Pascal, didn't immediately return a call for comment on the report Thursday.
The prison board issued a statement through its solicitor after releasing the report.
"(T)he Armstrong County Prison Board believes that Correction Officers clearly complied with the policies that had been established at the jail and no Correction Officer should be held responsible or be blamed for Crissman's volitional and unexpected actions," the statement said.
The board also said it "does not agree with all of the comments or conclusions contained in that report" without being specific.
The county paid $15,000 for the study.
The report contains some findings similar to those issued in September by District Attorney Scott Andreassi. He recommended various reforms, ranging from having inmates wear brightly colored jumpsuits to creating a community alert system when inmates escape.
Like CSI, Andreassi determined Crissman wasn't properly detoxed and shouldn't have been a trusty, even though he was friendly and cooperative with guards from past incarcerations, and didn't have a violent criminal record.
But unlike Andreassi, the CSI report placed most of the blame on Warden David Hogue.
Hogue has worked at the jail for 31 years and been the warden since 2006. He was suspended without pay in August and submitted his resignation, effective Nov. 12, shortly after Andreassi released his report.
The consultant's report said Hogue was supposed to approve inmates for trusty status but left that up to a subordinate, which "deviated from standard protocol."
Various jail staff said Hogue was a poor leader who hushed up trouble at the jail, including by discouraging a guard from reporting he was punched by an inmate. Jail employees also were often required to perform work beyond their job descriptions — including a lieutenant who was made to paint the jail.
Hogue had an "overzealous obsession with budgetary matters," though at least one employee blamed that on county commissioners' budget decisions. The penny-pinching resulted in lower-than-average wages for jail staff, high turnover and poor training, the report found.
Crissman's attorney Charles Pascal said the findings were not surprising, given the "culture of austerity" in which county managers are rewarded for cutting costs where ever possible.
"As a public defender in the county, I know about that culture of austerity," he said.
A phone number for Hogue was disconnected Thursday.
Among other things, there was no written policy for dealing with escapes, and the jail's pursuit team — which is supposed to chase escapees — included several guards not properly qualified with firearms. The team also was barred from searching for inmates beyond the jail's property.
The consultant found that "inexplicable."