Hunger strike at FCJ brought improvements

Two opposites

A hunger strike last week at Franklin County Jail apparently worked in getting at least some of inmates complaints corrected.

Word reaching inmates families over the weekend is that the situation is so much better that some inmates have gone on record acknowledging the jail staff’s work to correct deficiencies at the jail.

“From what I’m told several of the inmates who signed the original letter have gone on record both over the phone and on video with Joe from the PA Post regarding the conditions and treatment in which lead up to this peaceful protest,” the wife of one of the inmates said in an email Sunday morning to FCFP.

A number of inmates in the jail’s Block F staged the hunger strike a week ago after trying unsuccessfully to send a list of grievances to Warden Bill Bechtold.

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Among those grievances were complaints of mental abuse by one guard, a lack of face masks, gloves and sanitizing supplies for both inmates and prison staff, and issues such as a lack of working tablets and enough charging stations to keep them charged.

The use of tablets is commonplace in many jails and prisons to allow inmates to submit complaints to administrators, as well as communicate with families on the outside. Communications within the jail system are free. Inmates pay for usage outside the system, such as email, texts and video chats.

Jail complaint process

Some inmates said last week that the outside (paid) part of the tablets worked but the internal program was not working.

Bechtold said he had received only one complaint from a inmate in the 10 days before the hunger strike began and that inmate was not in Block F.

He said he did not receive inmates written list of demands either. A family member said she took over and emailed the written list to county officials after inmates complained the warden had not acknowledged the written complaint.

She provided the Free Press with a copy of those communications as well as the list of inmate grievances. Franklin County Commissioners discussed the issue Wednesday. Bechtold returned a call to FCFP that afternoon.

In spite of improvements, including prison staff wearing gloves and masks while bringing food trays to jail cells, representatives from Pennsylvania’s Prison Society and the ACLU have not been able to reach the warden about complaints filled with those organizations, one family membeo said.

Some families still concerned

Other inmates families say that while the situation for some inmates has improved in recent days, that’s not the case for their inmates.

The wife of one inmate said she hasn’t heard from her husband in over a week but hears from other inmates that the hunger strike has spread to the cell block where he is being held in “the hole,” a disciplinary isolation cell on Block E.

The word she received from others is that he isn’t eating and is not being checked regularly. The message she received said a nurse in the medical unit said “she doesn’t care if inmates don’t eat. Let them starve.”

Another family member said she had also heard that some inmates in disciplinary cells on Block E weren’t eating. Another inmate on Block E was denied a tray after returning to his cell following a visit from his attorney. The visit occurred during meal time.

The jail is required to get a court order and begin force feeding after an inmate misses nine meals, Bechtold said Wednesday. That normally involves providing nutrients through an IV.

FCJ’s inmate population last week was about 340. The jail has eight separate housing units, or cell blocks. The majority of the inmates are in jail for offenses such as DUIs, thefts and non-violent crimes, Bechtold said.

As of last week, 26 inmates were in jail for violent crimes such as murder, attempted murder and aggravated assaults. Many are awaiting trial and cannot make bail.

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8 Comments
  • Suzy

    Franklin county is small and alot of times inmates know the same people so another inmate is able to contact a wife and advise her of certain conditions her husband may be enduring if he is unable to call. furthermore there are other resources such as setting up a GTL account that you may converse through text messages and you can set that up with as many inmates as you would like to. Plus you can always go old school and grab a pen and paper. And the problem with the tablets is the jail paid all this money to have them installed for the inmates not to be able to use them to contact love ones when they are locked down 23 hours a day and there are people getting sick and dying every day. Its stressful for us on the out side keeping up with this pandemic I can guarantee it’s ten times worse for them having that unknown feeling. And being forced into starvation because you dont want to eat jail food served by guards not wearing gloves or masks being denied medical treatment for things like liver disease thyroid condition hypertension asthma and a long list of far worst things is a lot more serious then a wart on a big toe. Vicky Taylor is a well respected woman and long time resident of Franklin County and would not publish anything before she confirms the resources so you can bet your last dollar these statements in fact came directly from these inmates.

  • Jinny Ott

    Furthermore I personally had a family member that used to work at the Franklin County Jail and they told me that they couldn’t stand working there any longer because of the way inmates were being treated buy some guards and medical staff and how the kitchen looked with roaches and rats running through the area where food is made

  • Jinny Ott

    This all needs to be spread around because the Franklin County Jail in Chambersburg PA is really bad they take the commissary away from the inmates and make them eat the nasty food that they are given that’s not even nutritious and not enough to satisfy their hunger some of the guards at the jail mistreat inmates and they tried to cover it up they won’t let reporters into the jail because they don’t want their reputation I bet they’re in the Public’s eyes so the more people that speaks up and can get this jail investigated would be better because a lot of people have loved ones in that jail and they are being mistreated by the staff and the warden is behind it all he has been caught in lies and he knows about what’s going on in that prison but he does nothing about it

    • Kristy

      I agree that they need to be investigated badly there is so many wrong things that goes on in their that nobody else knows other than inmates themselves and at one point and time I was one of them and let me tell u I take responsibility for what I did and did my time but to be made to share a bathroom and a shower with 40 other women is unsanitary to have us use toilet brushes to scrub walls is again unsanitary . They sit and make fun of the people that are in mentel health I’ll never forget this person was withdrawing so bad they were seeing things and hearing things and the guards thought it was funny . They don’t do their 15-20 min checks like they should either .

      • Kristy

        It’s jus crazy how they have gotten away with it for so long I mean they will keep u locked down for hours at a time Jus bc they are having a bad day and don’t wanna deal with anyone . Not to mention if u have something wrong like headache or severe tooth infection and ask for nurse it can take days I watched someone face blow up lost hearing in left ear and the side of their face went numb and they kept asking for nurse and the guards kept saying oh I forgot it took 2 days and finally with other inmates saying hey this person is in bad shape they did something they literally don’t care . They chose favorites and if ur not on that list then u might as well jus stay away bc any little thing u do that’s not by the book they will write you up . The things they do are unreal everyone in jail is there bc they broke the law but to be treated the way they treat people is in humane and someone needs to have them fully investigated bc there so much mentel abuse and unsanitary issues that go on they reuse and wash underwear for god sake you go in there they give u underwear that was worn by someone else obviously washed but is gross stains in them and everything

  • sally mackey

    There’s a good bit of third person to this story, if she hasn’t spoken to her husband how is she hearing from other inmates? I mean I heard from Johnny that Suzy has a wart on her big toe … but that doesn’t mean she actually does.
    The ‘list of demands’ includes access to tablets ALL day for ALL inmates … ALL students now homeschooling due to the virus should have tablets, ALL of them … but they don’t.

    • Suzy

      Franklin county is small and alot of times inmates know the same people so another inmate is able to contact a wife and advise her of certain conditions her husband may be enduring if he is unable to call. furthermore there are other resources such as setting up a GTL account that you may converse through text messages and you can set that up with as many inmates as you would like to. Plus you can always go old school and grab a pen and paper. And the problem with the tablets is the jail paid all this money to have them installed for the inmates not to be able to use them to contact love ones when they are locked down 23 hours a day and there are people getting sick and dying every day. Its stressful for us on the out side keeping up with this pandemic I can guarantee it’s ten times worse for them having that unknown feeling. And being forced into starvation because you dont want to eat jail food served by guards not wearing gloves or masks being denied medical treatment for things like liver disease thyroid condition hypertension asthma and a long list of far worst things is a lot more serious then a wart on a big toe. Vicky Taylor is a well respected woman and long time resident of Franklin County and would not publish anything before she confirms the resources so you can bet your last dollar these statements in fact came directly from these inmates.

  • Das

    Thanks Vickie for covering this. Wonder which guard decided to throw the signed petition away with out notifing the warden?

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