DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. — The deaths of two Dauphin County prison inmates are under review and the prison director is suspended for an unrelated incident. The inmates died from apparent medical events just nine days apart, prompting an independent medical review by the Dauphin County Prison Board of Inspectors.
The recent developments have magnified concerns by the community. Kevin Maxson, a community activist and CEO of Voices 4 the Voiceless, said problems persist inside the Dauphin County Prison.
“I’m out here fighting for reform and change because I know there’s a problem,” said Maxson.
Maxson believes the recent inmate deaths could have been prevented, citing a strong disconnect in communication between inmates and prison staff.
Herbert Tilghman, 46, collapsed and died on August 20 while he was “under observation,” said Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo. Autopsy results are pending the outcome of the toxicology test, according to the county coroner.
Jimmy King Jr., 50, was found minimally responsive in his cell several days ago, according a county spokesperson. He died at Hershey Medical Center on August 29 and his death appears to be the result of congestive heart failure, Chardo told FOX43. Official results are pending.
The county’s Prison Board of Inspectors is reviewing policies and procedures to determine whether the inmates had been receiving proper medical care. The District Attorney’s Office is also investigating their deaths to determine whether criminal conduct is involved, which is standard procedure for any inmate death.
Meanwhile, another prison matter is also being looked into by the DA’s Office. Brian Clark, the Director of Corrections, has been suspended due to a personnel issue. Chardo said Clark's suspension is not related to the recent inmate deaths.
The DA’s Office is conducting a “preliminary evaluation” of Clark and it does not appear that it will result in criminal charges, Chardo said. The DA’s Office will refer their completed findings to the county prison board, which will take on an administrative review.
“Obviously, I have a great deal of respect for Director Clark and everyone is entitled to due process so I won’t be so quick to write him off, but this should be a sign to Dauphin County residents that no one is above reproach, not even the director of corrections,” said Brandon Flood, Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons.
Flood also sits on Dauphin County’s Community Advisory Committee, which works in conjunction with the county’s Prison Board of Inspectors. He said the committee will ask the Board details about their medical review into the recent inmate deaths.
Maxson said the recent incidents underscore a larger problem within the prison system and bolsters the need for prison reform. He said county officials need to address a rodent infestation problem at the prison, fix overcrowding issues and equip prison staff with body cameras.
“I actually got the ear of one of the county commissioners today. We sat down and we talked very candidly about some of the things I’d like to see change, some of the things he’d like to see change and we came eye-to-eye on a lot of issues,” said Maxson. “We are going to work together as a community to change these things to better serve Harrisburg.”