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Allegheny Co. Awaits Ruling on Shuman Center License After Responding to State Investigation

Allegheny County has reported to the state government on the reforms it has implemented at the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center following a Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) investigation into the alleged physical abuse of a child inmate in January.

Now the county must wait at least a few days for the DPW to rule on the status of the Shuman Center's license as a juvenile detention facility.

The license could be downgraded to a provisional status or the inmates could even be transferred, according to DPW spokeswoman Donna Morgan.

"We have compliance; then, we have first provisional and then second provisional," Morgan said. "In some cases, we will actually skip them and do something more dramatic. We could do emergency relocations; we could do an emergency closure, that type of thing."

However, she noted that the state tries to keep facilities running as long as possible.

Morgan said the DPW investigated a January 4 incident involving "two staff persons physically abusing a child in the care of that center."

In a written statement, Allegheny County Manager William McKain said his office investigated the event separately.

“Initial reports and statements indicated that it was a slip and fall, but after further investigation, a Child Line report was made regarding the incident," McKain wrote.

The changes to Shuman Center operations demanded by McKain in a March 8 report included:

  • an anonymous employee satisfaction survey
  • the use of the county's human resources department to make hires
  • County Controller audits of the center's payroll and of an employee donation fund
  • County Police purview over security staff at the center
  • the development of a "right-sizing" strategy to address population loss

McKain's investigation and report were prompted by a petition from about 70 disgruntled Shuman Center employees and not specifically by the alleged abuse incident in January.
According to published reports, Shuman Center employees allegedly shoved a young inmate into a door frame on January 4, drawing blood.