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Pennsylvania Jail Fires Guard Major Accused of Beating Prisoner

On October 29, 2011, James M. Donis, who had been major of the guards and the third-highest-ranking official at the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was fired from his $68,631/year position. Donis had worked at the jail since 1989.

On October 7, 2011, a federal lawsuit was filed accusing Donis of beating a prisoner. Gary W. Barbour had allegedly attempted to escape from the jail through the ventilation system. He was caught and offered no resistance. Nonetheless, Donis allegedly put on leather gloves and beat Barbour, after telling him, "I'm your worst nightmare." Other guards allegedly joined in the beating.

According to the lawsuit, after the beating Barbour's bloody and soiled clothes were changed before he was taken to a hospital. Attorney Ronald D. Barber, who represents Barbour in the federal lawsuit, said it was "too early to tell" what effect the firing would have on the litigation or whether the litigation led to the firing. Allegheny County spokeswoman Judi McNeil refused to comment "because it's a personnel matter."

Marion Damick, Pittsburgh representative of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, expressed surprise at the firing, noting suspension would have been more appropriate since Donis had not yet been charged with a crime.

Human Rights Coalition Fed Up advocate Shandre Delaney said the firing "doesn't surprise me, because most of the time when these things are occurring, it goes all the way up the ladder." She has protested local jail conditions and noted that "There is abuse going on."

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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