BROOKVILLE — The Jefferson County Jail Board had an apparently simple question to answer last week: When does an inmate become an inmate? The answer was not so simple.
The question stemmed from an incident when Punxsutawney Borough Police Officer Ryan Miller attempted to deposit an offender at the Jefferson County Jail. Officer Miller told the jail board members he entered the car port at the jail with his prisoner but was told that he could not admit the offender until he had been cleared by the Brookville Hospital.
Miller said the nurse on a duty at the jail, an employee of Prime Care, stepped into the sally port and referred the prisoner to the emergency room. Miller said the prisoner complained of a head injury that he claimed was caused by Miller but showed no symptoms or visible sign of an injury.
The inmate was cleared by the hospital and then admitted to the jail.
Miller said while he was in Brookville trying to admit the prisoner, police coverage in Punxsutawney was cut in half.
Miller said that it was his understanding that a prisoner became an inmate at the jail when, in this case, the district judge signed the committal order.
Jefferson County Jail Warden Tom Elbel said the county cannot accept a prisoner until he has been cleared of any medical issues due to liability concerns.
Elbel said in this case, the prisoner was unsteady when he exited the police car and the shift superintendent asked the nurse on duty to look at the prisoner.
Elbel said the nurse suggested the prisoner be cleared at the hospital.
Elbel added that being in the vehicle sally port did not mean the inmate was in the custody of the jail.
He noted that if Officer Miller had been in the jail itself he would have had to surrender his weapon to comply with the jail’s policy.
“We are all on the same team,” said Miller. “I just need to know what the policies are.”
“I am certain this has been litigated,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Jeff Burkett. “We should have our solicitor take a look at that.”